This paper investigates whether cortical comminution and intra-articular involvement can predict displacement in distal radius fractures by using a classification that includes volar comminution as a separate parameter.
A prospective multicentre study involving non-operative treatment of distal radius fractures in 387 patients aged between 15 and 74 years (398 fractures) was conducted. The presence of cortical comminution and intra-articular involvement according to the Buttazzoni classification is described. Minimally displaced fractures were treated with immobilisation in a cast while displaced fractures underwent closed reduction with subsequent immobilisation. Radiographs were obtained after reduction, at 10 to 14 days and after union. The outcome measure was re-displacement or union.
In fractures with volar comminution (Buttazzoni type 4), 96% (53 of 55) displaced. In intraarticular fractures without volar comminution (Buttazzoni 3), 72% (84 of 117) displaced. In extra-articular fractures with isolated dorsal comminution (Buttazzoni 2), 73% (106 of 145) displaced while in non-comminuted fractures (Buttazzoni 1), 16 % (13 of 81 ) displaced.
A total of 32% (53 of 165) of initially minimally displaced fractures later displaced. All of the initially displaced volarly comminuted fractures re-displaced. Displacement occurred in 31% (63 of 205) of fractures that were still in good alignment after 10 to 14 days.
Regression analysis showed that volar and dorsal comminution predicted later displacement, while intra-articular involvement did not predict displacement. Volar comminution was the strongest predictor of displacement.