There is no level I evidence dealing with the optimal period of immobilization for patients with a displaced distal radial fracture following closed reduction. A shorter period might lead to a better functional outcome due to less stiffness and pain. The aim of this study was to investigate whether this period could be safely reduced from six to four weeks.
This multicentre randomized controlled trial (RCT) included adult patients with a displaced distal radial fracture, who were randomized to be treated with immobilization in a cast for four or six weeks following closed reduction. The primary outcome measure was the Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation (PRWE) score after follow-up at one year. Secondary outcomes were the abbreviated version of the Disability of Arm, Shoulder and Hand (QuickDASH) score after one year, the functional outcome at six weeks, 12 weeks, and six months, range of motion (ROM), the level of pain after removal of the cast, and complications.
A total of 100 patients (15 male, 85 female) were randomized, with 49 being treated with four weeks of immobilization in a cast. A total of 93 completed follow-up. The mean PRWE score after one year was 6.9 (SD 8.3) in the four-week group compared with 11.6 (SD 14.3) in the six-week group. However, this difference of -4.7 (95% confidence interval -9.29 to 0.14) was not clinically relevant as the minimal clinically important difference of 11.5 was not reached. There was no significant difference in the ROM, radiological outcome, level of pain, or complications.
In adult patients with a displaced and adequately reduced distal radial fracture, immobilization in a cast for four weeks is safe, and the results are similar to those after a period of immobilization of six weeks.
Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2023;105-B(9):993–999.