Despite the recent trend toward the internal fixation of distal radial fractures in older patients, the currently available literature lacks adequate randomized trials examining whether open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) with a volar locking plate is superior to nonoperative (cast) treatment. The purpose of the present randomized clinical trial was to compare the outcomes of two methods that were used for the treatment of displaced and unstable distal radial fractures in patients sixty-five years of age or older: (1) ORIF with use of a volar locking plate and (2) closed reduction and plaster immobilization (casting).Methods:
A prospective randomized study was performed. Seventy-three patients with a displaced and unstable distal radial fracture were randomized to ORIF with a volar locking plate (n = 36) or closed reduction and cast immobilization (n = 37). The outcome was measured on the basis of the Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation (PRWE) score; the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score; the pain level; the range of wrist motion; the rate of complications; and radiographic measurements including dorsal radial tilt, radial inclination, and ulnar variance.Results:
There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of the range of motion or the level of pain during the entire follow-up period (p > 0.05). Patients in the operative treatment group had lower DASH and PRWE scores, indicating better wrist function, in the early postoperative time period (p < 0.05), but there were no significant differences between the groups at six and twelve months. Grip strength was significantly better at all times in the operative treatment group (p < 0.05). Dorsal radial tilt, radial inclination, and radial shortening were significantly better in the operative treatment group than in the nonoperative treatment group at the time of the latest follow-up (p < 0.05). The number of complications was significantly higher in the operative treatment group (thirteen compared with five, p < 0.05).Conclusions:
At the twelve-month follow-up examination, the range of motion, the level of pain, and the PRWE and DASH scores were not different between the operative and nonoperative treatment groups. Patients in the operative treatment group had better grip strength through the entire time period. Achieving anatomical reconstruction did not convey any improvement in terms of the range of motion or the ability to perform daily living activities in our cohorts.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.