Evidence-Based Orthopaedics   |    
Surgical Compared with Conservative Treatment for Acute Nondisplaced or Minimally Displaced Scaphoid FracturesA Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Geert A. Buijze, MD1; Job N. Doornberg, MD, PhD1; John S. Ham, MD, PhD2; David Ring, MD, PhD3; Mohit Bhandari, MD4; Rudolf W. Poolman, MD, PhD2
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Academic Medical Centre, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail address for G.A. Buijze: g.a.buijze@amc.uva.nl
2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Department of Joint Research, Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis, Postbus 95500, 1090 HM, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3 Orthopaedic Hand and Upper Extremity Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Yawkey Center, Suite 2100, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114
4 Hamilton Health Sciences-General Hospital, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton ON L8N 3Z5, Canada
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Disclosure: In support of their research for or preparation of this work, one or more of the authors received, in any one year, outside funding or grants in excess of $10,000 from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Marti-Keuning-Eckhardt Foundation and of less than $10,000 from the Anna Fonds Foundation. Neither they nor a member of their immediate families received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity.

Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, and at the Department of Joint Research, Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Copyright ©2010 American Society for Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2010 Jun 01;92(6):1534-1544. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.I.01214
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There is a current trend in orthopaedic practice to treat nondisplaced or minimally displaced fractures with early open reduction and internal fixation instead of cast immobilization. This trend is not evidence-based. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we pool data from trials comparing surgical and conservative treatment for acute nondisplaced and minimally displaced scaphoid fractures, thus aiming to summarize the best available evidence.


A systematic literature search of the medical literature from 1966 to 2009 was performed. We selected eight randomized controlled trials comparing surgical with conservative treatment for acute nondisplaced or minimally displaced scaphoid fractures in adults. Data from included studies were pooled with use of fixed-effects and random-effects models with standard mean differences and risk ratios for continuous and dichotomous variables, respectively. Heterogeneity across studies was assessed with calculation of the I2 statistic.


Four hundred and nineteen patients from eight trials were included. Two hundred and seven patients were treated surgically, and 212 were treated conservatively. Most trials lacked scientific rigor. Our primary outcome parameter, standardized functional outcome, which was assessed for 247 patients enrolled in four trials, significantly favored surgical treatment (p < 0.01). With regard to our secondary parameters, we found heterogeneous results that favored surgical treatment in terms of satisfaction (assessed in one study), grip strength (six studies), time to union (three studies), and time off work (five studies). In contrast, we found no significant differences between surgical and conservative treatment with regard to pain (two studies), range of motion (six studies), the rates of nonunion (six studies) and malunion (seven studies), and total treatment costs (two studies). The rate of complications was higher in the surgical treatment group (23.7%) than in the conservative group (9.1%), although this difference was not significant (p = 0.13). There was a nearly significantly higher rate of scaphotrapezial osteoarthritis in the surgical treatment group (p = 0.05).


Based on primary studies with limited methodological quality, this study suggests that surgical treatment is favorable for acute nondisplaced and minimally displaced scaphoid fractures with regard to functional outcome and time off work; however, surgical treatment engenders more complications. Thus, the long-term risks and short-term benefits of surgery should be carefully weighed in clinical decision-making.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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