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Hand News

Part Two: Results of Operative Treatment for Wrist Fracture

This is part two of a 1997 study of 21 patients with traumatic wrist fractures. Fracture occurred at the end of the radius (forearm bone) where it attaches to the wrist. The break crossed into the surface of the joint. This is called an intra-articular fracture of the distal radius.

In the first study, results of operative treatment were reported after seven years. In this study, 16 of the original 21 patients were examined 15 years after surgery. The results are compared with the seven year follow-up.

All patients were treated with open surgery and internal fixation. Fixation refers to the metal plates or wires used to hold the bones together during healing. In the first study, patients had good function but X-rays showed joint degeneration called joint arthrosis. There were arthritic changes but no inflammation and the joint space was narrowed.

After 15 years the arthrosis was worse but function was still the same. No one had lost any range of motion or strength despite degenerative changes in the joint.

The authors conclude arthrosis is linked with joint displacement after intra-articular wrist fractures. Function may be affected eventually but was not evident after 15 years. Restoring the joint as much as possible after this type of fracture is still advised.

Charles A. Goldfarb, MD, et al. Fifteen-Year Outcome of Displaced Intra-Articular Fractures of the Distal Radius. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. April 2006. Vol. 31A. No. 4. Pp. 633-639.


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