There are few things more discouraging for an orthopaedic surgeon than a late postoperative complication after what was an otherwise successful surgery. One such scenario occurs when patients who have undergone open reduction/internal fixation (ORIF) for a distal radial fracture subsequently experience a flexor pollicis longus (FPL) tendon rupture. While previous literature has suggested that plate positioning plays a role in that complication, no studies have evaluated whether newer plate designs decrease contact with the FPL tendon and therefore reduce the risk of rupture.
With that question in mind, Stepan et al. evaluated two cohorts of patients who had undergone ORIF for a distal radial fracture. In the September 4, 2019 issue of JBJS, they report on findings from 40 patients, 20 of whom received a standard distal radial volar locking plate, and 20 of whom received a plate designed with a distal cutout to afford the FPL more room to traverse.
Ultrasound analysis revealed that similar percentages of patients in each group had FPL–plate contact (65% in the FPL-plate group and 79% in the standard-plate group), and there were no differences between groups in terms of FPL tendon degeneration as seen on ultrasound. However, patients who received the FPL plate had significantly less of the tendon come in contact with the plate at 0° and 45° of wrist extension. The authors noted, however, that this difference may have been influenced by the fact that patients with the FPL-specific plate also had significantly lower volar tilt than patients with the standard locking plate. It is therefore not possible to determine whether it was the plate design or the bone position (or both) that led to these results.
It is also noteworthy that the two senior authors of this study work as consultants for the company that manufactures the plates that were evaluated. It is also important to note that because all the patients in this study were asymptomatic, further research is needed to determine the clinical importance of reduced tendon–plate contact area. We should temper our excitement about specially designed volar plates until we have more clinical data supporting their success in avoiding the problem for which they were designed.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
See what JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media Chad Krueger, MD thinks about the just-published Level-I trial comparing nonoperative treatment to volar locking plate fixation among 140 elderly patients with dorsally displaced distal radial fractures.
Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in one of 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz subspecialty summaries.
This month, Christopher J. Dy, MD, MPH, author of the March 20, 2019 “What’s New in Hand Surgery,” selected the five most compelling findings from among the 47 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.
Distal Radial Fractures
—A randomized trial comparing volar plate fixation to cast management in patients >60 years of age who had AO type-C distal radial fractures1 found that the volar plating group had better Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation scores than the casting group after a minimum 24 months of follow-up. Maintenance of reduction was also better in the volar plating group. These findings are contrary to those of a similar randomized trial published in 2011, suggesting that there are patient-level and surgeon-level differences between the 2 environments in which the studies were conducted.
—Among 175 elderly patients with distal radial fractures treated nonoperatively and who showed acceptable radiographic reduction at 1 to 2 weeks, 28% had late displacement or malunion at the 3-month follow-up.2 Relative to cases in which reduction was maintained, cases with late displacement or malunion had lower grip strength and loss of the total wrist range of motion. However, there was no between-group difference in patient-reported functional measures, and the incidence of the most common complication—carpal tunnel syndrome—was the same in both groups.
—Findings from a biomechanical study with cadavers suggest that 50% cortical healing of a scaphoid fracture after open reduction and internal fixation with a compression screw is sufficient to allow unrestricted activity.3 Constructs with a 50% osteotomy and compression screw showed the same load to failure as intact scaphoids, but load to failure in a group with a 75% osteotomy and compression screw was lower than that in the intact scaphoid group.
—Traditionally, surgeons have emphasized proximal pole vascularity in cases of scaphoid nonunion. However, a study of 35 scaphoid nonunions treated with nonvascularized bone grafting and a headless compression screw4 found that 33 fractures went on to union, despite evidence of compromised proximal pole vascularity in 14 of 32 patients who had histopathological data available.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
—A cross-sectional study analyzing data from 367 patients who presented for evaluation of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)5 found that those with the poorest socioeconomic status had worse PROMIS scores for physical function, pain interference, depression, and anxiety, compared with those in the least-deprived quartile. Deprived patients were also more likely to have a higher comorbidity burden and to use tobacco, both of which may influence outcomes after CTS treatment.
- Martinez-Mendez D, Lizaur-Utrilla A, de-Juan-Herrero J. Intra-articular distal radius fractures in elderly patients: a randomized prospective study of casting versus volar plating. J Hand Surg Eur Vol.2018 Feb;43(2):142-7. Epub 2017 Sep 4
- Wadsten MÅ, Sjödén GO, Buttazzoni GG, Buttazzoni C, Englund E, Sayed-Noor AS. The influence of late displacement in distal radius fractures on function, grip strength, range of motion and quality of life. J Hand Surg Eur Vol.2018 Feb;43(2):131-6. Epub 2017 Jul 31.
- Guss MS, Mitgang JT, Sapienza A. Scaphoid healing required for unrestricted activity: a biomechanical cadaver model. J Hand Surg Am.2018 Feb;43(2):134-8. Epub 2017 Nov 7.
- Rancy SK, Swanstrom MM, DiCarlo EF, Sneag DB, Lee SK, Wolfe SW; Scaphoid Nonunion Consortium. Success of scaphoid nonunion surgery is independent of proximal pole vascularity. J Hand Surg Eur Vol.2018 Jan;43(1):32-40. Epub 2017 Sep 24.
- Wright MA, Beleckas CM, Calfee RP. Mental and physical health disparities in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome living with high levels of social deprivation. J Hand Surg Am.2018 Jun 23. [Epub ahead of print].
Every month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.
This month, OrthoBuzz asked Sanjeev Kakar, MD, the author of the March 16, 2016 Specialty Update on hand surgery, to select the five most clinically compelling findings from among the more than 30 he cited in his article.
–In the treatment of distal radius fractures, is volar plating superior to closed reduction and pin fixation? A prospective randomized trial of 461 adults with acute dorsally displaced distal radial fractures that were amenable to closed reduction found no clinically significant differences in Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation (PRWE) scores among those who underwent percutaneous wire fixation and those who underwent locking-plate fixation. The findings led the authors to conclude that when looking at functional outcomes, treatments other than plate fixation may suffice.1
–Authors of a cost and utility analysis of 268 patients with a surgically treated distal radial fracture concluded that the routine use of radiographs made at two weeks postoperatively is of little clinical benefit, except in cases of patients with high-energy intra-articular fractures or those who sustain an injury after surgery.2
–To challenge conventional dogma that the contralateral wrist of rheumatoid arthritis patients who undergo wrist arthrodesis must maintain motion in order for them to perform activities of daily living, a long-term study followed 13 bilateral wrist arthrodesis patients for an average of 14 years. The major functional limitations noted were turning a door knob and opening a tight jar lid. Increasing age, preoperative corticosteroid use, and concomitant shoulder or elbow disorders were associated with worse outcomes. Ninety-three percent of the patients expressed satisfaction and said they would repeat the bilateral procedure.3
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
–Should one perform staged or simultaneous carpal tunnel surgery? A cost-effectiveness study of simultaneous versus staged bilateral carpal tunnel release in 198 patients found that those who underwent simultaneous surgery had significantly fewer days off work and fewer postoperative follow-up visits, and they also incurred significantly lower costs in terms of mean amounts billed and fees collected.4
Trapeziometacarpal Joint Arthritis
–Is there an optimal suspension arthroplasty for the treatment of basilar thumb arthritis? A randomized controlled trial of 79 patients with trapeziometacarpal arthritis found that functional/clinical outcomes at 12 months were essentially the same between a group that underwent ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition (LRTI) and a group that underwent trapeziectomy and flexor carpi radialis weave around the abductor pollicis longus tendon. The notable exception was an improvement in PRWE scores at three months among those who underwent the LRTI procedure.5
- Costa ML, Achten J, Parsons NR, Rangan A, Griffin D, Tubeuf S, Lamb SE;DRAFFT Study Group. Percutaneous fixation with Kirschner wires versus volar locking plate fixation in adults with dorsally displaced fracture of distal radius: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2014;349:g4807. Epub 2014 Aug 5
- Stone JD, Vaccaro LM, Brabender RC, Hess AV. Utility and cost analysis of radiographs taken 2 weeks following plate fixation of distal radius fractures. J Hand Surg Am. 2015 Jun;40(6):1106-9. Epub 2015 Mar 31.
- Wagner ER, Elhassan BT, Kakar S. Long-term functional outcomes after bilateral total wrist arthrodesis. J Hand Surg Am. 2015 Feb;40(2):224-228.e1. Epub 2014 Dec 13.
- Phillips P, Kennedy J, Lee T. Cost effective analysis of simultaneous versus staged bilateral carpal tunnel release. Read at the American Association for Hand Surgery Annual Meeting; 2015 Jan 21-24; Paradise Island, Bahamas. Paper no. 104.
- VermeulenGM, Spekreijse KR, Slijper H, Feitz R, Hovius SE, Selles RW.Comparison of arthroplasties with or without bone tunnel creation for thumb basal joint arthritis: a randomized controlled trial. J Hand Surg Am. 2014 Sep;39(9):1692-8. Epub 2014 Jun 10.