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To synthesise the literature and perform a meta-analysis detailing the longitudinal recovery in the first two years following a distal radius fracture (DRF) managed with volar plate fixation.Three databases were searched to identify relevant articles. Following eligibility screening and quality assessment, data were extracted and outcomes were assimilated at the postoperative time points of interest. A state-of-the-art longitudinal mixed-effects meta-analysis model was employed to analyse the data.The search identified 5698 articles, of which 46 study reports met the selection criteria. High levels of disability and impairment were reported in the immediate post-operative period with subsequently a rapid initial improvement followed by more gradual improvement for up to one year. The results highlight that the period associated with the greatest physical recovery is in the first three months and suggest that the endpoint of treatment outcomes is best measured at one year post-surgery.Clinically meaningful improvements in outcomes can be expected for 12 months, after which progress plateaus and reaches normal values. This paper adopted a novel approach to meta-analyses in that the research question was of a longitudinal nature, which required a unique method of statistical analysis.Cite this article:Bone Joint J2017;99-B:1665-76.