Published: 2019-02-23

A comparative study of functional outcome of external fixation and volar plating in unstable distal radius fractures

Anil Kumar Mishra, Ajay Deep Sud, Manish Prasad, Rajiv Kaul, Chander Mohan Singh


Background: Distal radius fractures are amongst the most common injuries seen in the emergency department. It is imperative to restore the anatomy as much as possible in order to restore wrist function. Identifying a fracture as ‘unstable’ is critical in predicting the final outcome of treatment. The present study compares two primary modalities of treatment: external fixation and volar plating in terms of the functional outcome post-surgery.  Aim of the study was to compare the functional outcome of fixation of unstable distal radius fractures by external fixation to that of volar plating by the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) scoring system and analysis of recovery of grip strength and range of motion. Settings and design: Hospital-based; randomized control trial.

Methods: 80 patients presenting with unstable distal radius fractures were randomized into two groups of 40 each. One group received external fixation and the second received open reduction with volar plate fixation as the primary intervention. DASH scores were obtained and compared at specified time intervals following surgery.

Results: The results of our study show a better improvement in the mean DASH scores at 3, 6 and 12 months in the volar plating group as compared to the external fixation group.

Conclusions: Volar plating, with its definitive advantage of direct fracture visualization, has an overall better functional outcome with greater postoperative wrist motion and a lower incidence of complications. 


Unstable, Distal radius fractures, External fixation, Volar plating, Functional outcome, DASH score

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