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Different methods of external fixation for treating distal radial fractures in adults

  1. Helen HG Handoll1,*,
  2. James S Huntley2,
  3. Rajan Madhok3

Editorial Group: Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group

Published Online: 23 JAN 2008

Assessed as up-to-date: 1 OCT 2007

DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006522.pub2


How to Cite

Handoll HHG, Huntley JS, Madhok R. Different methods of external fixation for treating distal radial fractures in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD006522. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006522.pub2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Teesside, Centre for Rehabilitation Sciences (CRS), Research Institute for Health Sciences and Social Care, Middlesborough, Tees Valley, UK

  2. 2

    Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, University Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Edinburgh, UK

  3. 3

    University of Manchester, Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group, Manchester, UK

*Helen HG Handoll, Centre for Rehabilitation Sciences (CRS), Research Institute for Health Sciences and Social Care, University of Teesside, School of Health and Social Care, Middlesborough, Tees Valley, TS1 3BA, UK. h.handoll@tees.ac.uk. H.Handoll@ed.ac.uk.

Publication History

  1. Publication Status: Edited (no change to conclusions)
  2. Published Online: 23 JAN 2008

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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Plain language summary

Background

Fracture of the distal radius is a common injury. A surgical treatment is external fixation, where metal pins inserted into bone on either side of the fracture are then fixed to an external frame.

Objectives

To evaluate the evidence from randomised controlled trials comparing different methods of external fixation for distal radial fractures in adults.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register (June 2007), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE and other databases, conference proceedings and reference lists of articles. No language restrictions were applied.

Selection criteria

Randomised or quasi-randomised controlled clinical trials which compared different methods of external fixation in adults with a distal radial fracture.

Data collection and analysis

All review authors independently performed study selection. Two authors independently assessed the included trials and performed data extraction.

Main results

Nine small trials involving 510 adults with potentially or evidently unstable fractures, were grouped into five comparisons. The interventional, clinical and methodological heterogeneity of trials precluded data pooling. Only one trial had secure allocation concealment.

Two trials comparing a bridging (of the wrist) external fixator versus pins and plaster external fixation found no significant differences in function or deformity. One trial found tendencies for more serious complications but less subsequent discomfort and deformity in the fixator group.

Three trials compared non-bridging versus bridging fixation. Of the two trials testing uni-planar non-bridging fixation, one found no significant differences in functional or clinical outcomes; the other found non-bridging fixation significantly improved grip strength, wrist flexion and anatomical outcome. The third trial found no significant findings in favour of multi-planar non-bridging fixation of complex intra-articular fractures.

One trial using a bridging external fixator found that deploying an extra external fixator pin to fix the 'floating' distal fragment gave superior functional and anatomical results.

One trial found no evidence of differences in clinical outcomes for hydroxyapatite coated pins compared with standard uncoated pins.

Two trials compared dynamic versus static external fixation. One trial found no significant effects from early dynamism of an external fixator. The poor quality of the other trial undermines its findings of poorer functional and anatomical outcomes for dynamic fixation.

Authors' conclusions

There is insufficient robust evidence to determine the relative effects of different methods of external fixation. Adequately powered studies could provide better evidence.

 

Plain language summary

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Plain language summary

Different methods of external fixation for treating distal radial fractures in adults

In older people, a 'broken wrist' (from a fracture at the lower end of the two forearm bones) can result from a fall onto an outstretched hand. Surgery may be considered for more seriously displaced fractures. One type of surgery is external fixation, in which metal pins are driven into bone on either side of the fracture via small skin incisions and fixed externally. The external component holds the bony fragments in position while the bone heals. Most of the differences between methods of external fixation are a) in the characteristics and design of the external component and b) in the placement of pins. In some cases, the distal pins are placed into bones of the hand rather than the generally more fragile end of the fractured bone. This is bridging fixation, where the external component bridges and immobilises the wrist joint.

This review looked at the evidence from randomised controlled trials comparing different methods of external fixation.

Nine small randomised trials involving 510 adults with potentially or evidently unstable fractures, were grouped into five comparisons. The trials were too different to justify pooling of results. Only one trial used a best-practice method for preventing selection bias.

Two trials comparing a bridging (of the wrist) external fixator versus pins and plaster external fixation found no statistically significant differences in function or deformity. One trial found tendencies for more serious complications but less subsequent discomfort and deformity in the fixator group.

Three trials compared non-bridging versus bridging fixation, using external fixators. Two trials tested similar non-bridging fixators: one found no significant differences in functional or clinical outcomes, whereas the other found non-bridging fixation significantly improved grip strength, wrist flexion and anatomical outcome. The third trial found no significant findings in favour of multi-planar non-bridging fixation of complex fractures.

One trial using a bridging external fixator found that fixing the distal fracture fragment with an extra external fixator pin gave superior functional and anatomical results.

One trial found no evidence of differences in clinical outcomes for hydroxyapatite coated pins compared with standard uncoated pins.

Two trials compared dynamic versus static external fixation. One trial found no significant effects from the early 'dynamism' of an external fixator. The poor quality of the other trial undermines its findings of poorer results for dynamic fixation.

The review concluded that there is insufficient robust evidence to determine the relative effects of the different methods of external fixation.