Supplementary Fixation Improves Stability of Intra-Articular Distal Radius Fractures Managed With a Spanning Plate

Publication: The Journal of Hand Surgery

Date: February 13, 2023

Authors: Jacob M. Modest, Jeremy E. Raducha, Rachel M. Schilkowsky, Janine Molino, Christopher J. Got, Julia A. Katarincic, Joseph A. Gil


Previous studies evaluating weight bearing of distal radius fractures treated through dorsal spanning bridge plates used extra-articular fracture models, and have not evaluated the role of supplementary fixation. We hypothesized that supplementary fixation with a spanning dorsal bridge plate for an intra-articular wrist fracture would decrease the displacement of individual articular pieces with cyclic axial loading and allow for walker or crutch weight bearing.

Thirty cadaveric forearms were matched into 3 cohorts, controlling for age, sex, and bone mineral density. An intra-articular fracture model was fixed with the following 3 techniques: (1) cohort A with a dorsal bridge plate, (2) cohort B with a dorsal bridge plate and two 1.6-mm k-wires, and (3) cohort C with a dorsal bridge plate and a radial pin plate. Specimens were axially loaded cyclically with escalating weights consistent with walker and crutch weight-bearing with failure defined as 2-mm displacement.

No specimens failed at 2- or 5-kg weights, but cohort A had significantly more displacement at these weights compared with cohort B. Cohort A had significantly more failure than cohort C. Both cohort A and cohort B had significantly more displacement at crutch weight bearing compared with cohort C. The supplementary fixation group had significantly lower displacement at crutch weight-bearing compared with cohort A in all gaps. Survival curves demonstrated the fixation cohort to survive higher loads than the nonfixation group.

There was significantly less displacement and less failure of intra-articular distal radius fractures treated with a spanning dorsal bridge plate and supplementary fixation. Our model showed that either type of fixation was superior to the nonfixation group.

Clinical Significance
When considering early weight-bearing for intra-articular distal radius fractures treated with a spanning dorsal bridge plate, supplementary fixation may be considered as an augmentation to prevent fracture displacement.

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