Bivalved Versus Circumferential Cast Immobilization for Displaced Forearm Fractures: A Randomized Clinical Trial to Assess Efficacy and Safety

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Abstract

Background:

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of bivalved versus circumferential cast immobilization on maintenance of reduction and associated complications after closed reduction (CR) of radius and/or ulna fractures in children.

Methods:

Two hundred two children with displaced radius and/or ulna fractures were randomized to either circumferential (n=101) or bivalved (n=101) long-arm casts after CR. The mean age was 10±3 years. There were no significant differences between groups in terms of age, sex, or initial fracture displacement or angulation. Clinical and radiographic evaluations were performed at 1, 2, 4, and 6 weeks postreduction. Radiographic loss of reduction (LOR), need for remanipulation or surgery, and associated complications of compartment syndrome, cast saw injury, and neurovascular compromise were recorded.

Results:

Overall, the median angulation of the radius and ulna fractures improved from 20 and 18 degrees to 3 and 2 degrees after CR, respectively. The median cast index after reduction was 0.78 in the bivalved group and 0.80 in the circumferential group. The median angulation of the radius and ulna was 8 and 1 degrees at 4 weeks, with no significant difference between groups. By the fourth week of follow-up, 70 patients (34%)—35 bivalved and 35 circumferential—had radiographic LOR. Forty-seven patients (23%)—23 bivalved and 24 circumferential—underwent remanipulation or surgical reduction and fixation. There were no significant differences between groups with respect to LOR rate or need for surgical treatment. One bivalved patient sustained a cast saw injury, and 3 bivalved patients had transient neurological abnormalities. No patients developed compartment syndrome.

Conclusions:

Cast immobilization is effective in the majority of patients after CR of displaced forearm fractures. There were no significant differences in maintenance of reduction, need for surgery, or complications between bivalved or circumferential long-arm casts.

Level of Evidence:

Level I—therapeutic.

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