Fixation of nondisplaced scaphoid fractures: making treatment cost effective

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IntroductionNondisplaced scaphoid waist fractures treated with prolonged plaster immobilisation often lead in transient joint stiffness and to a delay in return to sport and work activity. The long time off work increases the work off compensation costs. Internal fixation of scaphoid fractures has resulted in a shorter time to union and to return to work and sports. This prospective study compares cast immobilisation with screw fixation and the direct cost with indirect cost of conservative and minimally invasive treatment of undisplaced scaphoid fractures.Materials and methodsForty-seven patients with an acute nondisplaced waist fracture of the scaphoid were allocated into either cast immobilisation or internal screw fixation for this study. Cost data concerning the groups of nonoperated and operated patients were analysed. Range of wrist motion, grip strength, DASH-score, time to fracture union, return to work time and the needed physiotherapy at the final follow-up at 6 months were evaluated.ResultsTwenty-one patients were included in the group of screw fixation and 23 patients were included in the group of cast immobilisation. At final follow-up there was no significant difference in the range of motion of the wrist or in grip strength. The operatively treated group had a better mean DASH-score than the conservative group. Fracture union was seen in the screw fixation group at a mean of 43 days and in the cast immobilisation group at a mean of 74 days (P < 0.5). The average time of return to work was 8 days for patients who had an internal screw fixation, while those treated with a cast returned to work at a mean of 55 days (P < 0.5). In total the internal fixation of undisplaced scaphoid fractures is less expensive than conservative treatment.ConclusionInternal screw fixation of nondisplaced scaphoid fractures had a shorter time to bony union and the patients returned earlier to work compared with cast immobilisation. Although it is assumed that operative treatment is more expensive, in this study the cost was not found to be higher.

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