Fractures of the metacarpals and phalanges are common. Placement of Kirschner wires (K-wires) is the most common form of surgical fixation. After placement, a key decision is whether to bury the end of a K-wire or leave it protruding from the skin (exposed). A recent systematic review found no evidence to support either approach. The aim of study was to investigate current clinical practice, understand the key factors influencing clinician decision-making, and explore patient preferences to inform the design of a randomized clinical trial.Methods:
The steering group developed surveys for hand surgeons, hand therapists, and patients. Following piloting, they were distributed across the United Kingdom hand surgery units using the Reconstructive Surgery Trials Network.Results:
A total of 423 hand surgeons, 187 hand therapists, and 187 patients completed the surveys. Plastic surgeons and junior surgical trainees preferred to leave K-wires not buried. Ease of removal correlated with a decision to leave wires exposed, whereas perceived risk of infection correlated with burying wires. Cost did not affect the decision. Hand therapists were primarily concerned about infection and patient-related outcomes. Patients were most concerned about wire-related problems and pain.Conclusion:
This national survey provides a new understanding of the use of K-wires to manage hand fractures in the United Kingdom. A number of nonevidence-based factors seem to influence the decision to bury or leave K-wires exposed. The choice has important clinical and health economic implications that justify a randomized controlled trial.