Is external fixation a better way than plaster to supplement K-wires in non-comminuted distal radius fractures?
BACKGROUND: Distal radius fractures represent about one-sixth of all fractures. There is still no consensus on the treatment of this fracture. We have several issues to assess and address; one of them is the fixation method. We tried to compare the effectiveness of two methods of stabilisation of distal radial fracture. Comparison between the techniques of Kirschner wire (K-wire) fixation with plaster and K-wire fixation with external fixation (Ex-Fix) was undertaken to assess which treatment modality gives better results in patients with distal radius fracture Frykman VII and VIII with no metaphyseal comminution.METHOD: Fifty-six patients were chosen randomly and then allocated to two different modalities of stabilisation randomly as well, they were followed up; three of them were lost to follow-up because of death and two moved away from the area. Fifty-one patients were randomised in two groups: 24 were treated with K-wire and spanning Ex-Fix supplementation and 27 were treated with K-wires and plaster. Patients were prospectively monitored following the operation with a minimum follow-up of 1 year. Measurement of range of motion was obtained after surgery. Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores for pain and satisfaction levels were also recorded. RESULTS: There was statistically significant difference in favour of the Ex-Fix patient group for pain (VAS, Ex-Fix group: mean 14.9; plaster group: mean 28.1) and satisfaction (Ex-Fix group: mean 89.7;plaster group: mean 76.3). Although one would expect that range of motion would be reduced in the Ex-Fix group, there were no statistically significant differences found, with the exception of supination where results were in favour of the Ex-Fix group (mean 54.4; plaster group: mean 45.2).CONCLUSION: In our study, xternal fixator (Ex-Fix) supplementation of K-wiring favoured patients with distal radius fracture, even though there was no metaphyseal comminution, and therefore is suggested in contrast to plaster supplementation.