We performed a prospective, randomised study on 57 patients older than 60 years of age with unstable, extra-articular fractures of the distal radius to compare the outcome of immobilisation in a cast alone with that using supplementary, percutaneous pinning.
Patients treated by percutaneous wires had a statistically significant improvement in dorsal angulation (mean 7°), radial length (mean 3 mm) and radial inclination (mean 3 mm) at one year. However, there was no significant difference in functional outcome in terms of pain, range of movement, grip strength, activities of daily living and the SF-36 score except for an improved range of movement in ulnar deviation in the percutaneous wire group. One patient developed a pin-track infection which required removal of the wires at two weeks.
We conclude that percutaneous pinning of unstable, extra-articular fractures of the distal radius provides only a marginal improvement in the radiological parameters compared with immobilisation in a cast alone. This does not correlate with an improved functional outcome in a low-demand, elderly population.