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7th Congress of the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Lisbon - 4-7 June, 2005


The purpose of the study was to objectively compare the effects of the scaphoid and Colles’ type casts on hand function. Currently there is no such published study.

Both casts are commonly used to immobilise suspected and radiologically proven undisplaced scaphoid fractures. There is no difference in non-union rates. The scaphoid incorporates the thumb in palmar abduction, whereas the Colles’ type cast leaves the thumb free. Although necessary for bone healing, immobilisation disrupts function and may require intensive corrective physiotherapy. Unnecessary immobilisation of uninvolved joints should be avoided when use does not compromise fracture stability.

We compared the effect of the two casts on hand function in 20 healthy right hand dominant volunteers using the Jebsen-Taylor Hand Function Test, which uses seven subtests designed to test tasks representative of everyday functional activities. Data were obtained through a mixed between and within subject design.

Using the Jebsen-Taylor Hand Function Test, median overall scoring in the Colles’ type cast was 2.5 times that obtained in the scaphoid. In timing individual subtests, the analyses show significant differences (p< 0001) between the presence and absence of a cast. When comparing the two cast types, mean times for all subtests are less in the Colles’ than in the scaphoid, with the difference reaching statistical significance in five out of seven subtests.

Having either type of cast significantly impairs handling and finger dexterity, and so affects activities of daily living. A scaphoid, however, is much more limiting than a Colles’ type cast. This makes it clearly more inconvenient for the patient with socioeconomic implications and occasionally issues of compliance during a long period of immobilisation.

Theses abstracts were prepared by Professor Roger Lemaire. Correspondence should be addressed to EFORT Central Office, Freihofstrasse 22, CH-8700 Küsnacht, Switzerland.