An Alternative Technique for External Fixation of Traumatic Intra-articular Fractures of Proximal and Middle Phalanx

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Abstract

Background:

Intra-articular fractures of the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint are commonly treated with dynamic external fixation. Most commonly used is the Suzuki modification of the pins and rubber traction system (PRTS). There are a few other modifications of the PRTS external fixators. We present an alternative pin external fixator that is simple and effective.

Methods:

Under a suitable anesthesia and image intensification a true lateral view of the head of the proximal phalanx is obtained. A K-wire construct holds the affected digit out to length with the fracture reduced and Jurgan pin-balls hold the construct into position. Under image intensification the whole device is checked to ensure the joint and fracture is reduced and the joint is not over distracted. The PIP joint is also checked to ensure good range of motion. The device was checked in clinic at 1 week with radiographs. The wires are removed at 4 weeks followed by intensive hand physiotherapy.

Results:

Over 20 patients with intra-articular fractures of the proximal and middle phalangeal were treated with this technique. In all cases the fracture healed with good joint congruency. All patients achieved good range of motion of the PIP joint but with some restriction of full flexion (mean, 20 degrees). There was no loss of position or pin-site infections. There was good compliance with the treatment.

Discussion:

The main advantages of the technique we describe are: (1) the compact design, making it less cumbersome for the patient compared with other PRTS external fixators; (2) it is straightforward to assemble and the device is easy to adjust in clinic if there is any loss of reduction; (3) the pin-balls prevent sharp ends of the wire protruding causing morbidity to the patient; (4) there is less chance of loss of traction compared with traction devices using rubber bands. It is a dynamic device, which allows mobilization of the joints reducing stiffness.

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