Surgical interventions for treating distal radial fractures in adults.

Helen Handoll, R. Madhok

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Fracture of the distal radius is a common clinical problem, particularly in older white women with osteoporosis. OBJECTIVES: To determine when, and if so what type of, surgical intervention is the most appropriate treatment for fractures of the distal radius in adults. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Injuries Group specialised register (November 2002), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2003), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2003), EMBASE (1988 to 2003 Week 8), CINAHL (1982 to February 2003), the National Research Register (Issue 1, 2003), PEDro, conference proceedings and reference lists of articles. No language restrictions were applied. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised or quasi-randomised clinical trials involving skeletally mature patients with a fracture of the distal radius, which compared surgical treatment with conservative treatment, different types of surgical intervention or the duration of immobilisation after surgery. The main categories of surgical intervention were external fixation, percutaneous pinning, open reduction and internal fixation, and the insertion of bone scaffolding materials. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: All trials, meeting the selection criteria, were independently assessed by both reviewers for methodological quality. Data were extracted for anatomical, functional and clinical outcomes (including complications). The trials were grouped into categories relating to the main comparisons and types of surgical intervention. Despite clear heterogeneity in the characteristics of comparable trials, pooling of data was undertaken where possible and appropriate. MAIN RESULTS: Forty eight trials, examining 25 treatment comparisons, met the inclusion criteria of this review. These involved a total of 4371 mainly female and older patients with generally displaced, often comminuted and potentially or evidently unstable fractures. Nearly half of the trials compared surgery with plaster cast immobilisation. Summarising the outcomes was hampered by the variation between the studies in participant characteristics, interventions, quality of trial methodology and reporting, and outcome measurement. Surgical methods were usually associated with better anatomical appearance after fracture healing, but there was inadequate evidence to confirm that these had resulted in better functional and clinical outcomes for the patients. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: The 48 randomised trials do not provide robust evidence for most of the decisions necessary in the management of these fractures. Although, in particular, there is some evidence to support the use of external fixation or percutaneous pinning, their precise role and methods are not established. It is also unclear whether surgical intervention of most fracture types will produce consistently better long-term outcomes.There is a need for good quality evidence for the surgical management of these fractures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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