Outcome measurement following surgery is increasingly the focus of attention in current health-care debates because of the rising costs of medical care and the large variety of operative options. The purpose of the present study was to correlate quality of life after volar locked plate fixation of unstable intra-articular distal radial fractures with functional and radiographic results as well as with quality-of-life data from population norms.Methods:
Fifty-four consecutive patients with intra-articular distal radial fractures and a mean age of sixty-three years were managed with a volar locked plate system. Range of motion, grip strength, and radiographs were assessed at a mean of six years postoperatively. The wrist-scoring systems of Gartland and Werley and Castaing were adopted for the assessment of objective outcomes. The Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand and Short Form-36 questionnaires were completed as subjective outcome measures, and the results were compared with United States and Austrian population norms.Results:
Functional improvement continued for two years postoperatively. At the time of the latest follow-up, >90% of all patients had achieved good or excellent results according to the scoring systems of Gartland and Werley and Castaing. The results of the Short Form-36 questionnaire were similar to the United States and Austrian population norms. The mean Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score was 5 points at two years, and it increased to 13 points at six years. The twenty patients with radiocarpal arthritis had significantly poorer results in the physical component summary measure of the Short Form-36 questionnaire (p = 0.012).Conclusions:
The results of the present single-center study show that, following distal radial fracture fixation, wrist arthritis may affect the patient’s subjective well-being, as documented with the Short Form-36, without influencing the functional outcome. Well-designed longitudinal clinical trials are needed to confirm the findings of the present investigation in terms of quality of life after surgical treatment of intra-articular distal radial fractures.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.