Carpal alignment in distal radial fractures

Gupta, Ajay; Batra, Sumit; Jain, Pankaj; Sharma, Satish Kumar
January 2002
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders;2002, Vol. 3, p14
Academic Journal
Background: Carpal malalignment following the malunited distal radial fracture is described to develop as an adaptation to realign the hand to the malunion. It worsens gradually after healing of the fracture due to continued loading of the wrist. It is also reported to develop during the immobilization itself rather than after fracture healing. The present work was aimed to study the natural course and the quantitative assessment of such adaptive carpal realignment following distal radial fracture. Methods: In a prospective study, 118 distal radial fractures treated with different modalities were followed-up with serial radiographs for a year for assessment of various radiological parameters. Results: Two patterns of carpal malalignment were identified depending upon the effective radiolunate flexion (ERLF) measured on pre-reduction radiographs. The midcarpal malalignment was seen in 98 radial fractures (83%) with the lunate following the dorsiflexed fracture fragment and a measured ERLF of less than 25°. The second pattern of radio-carpal malalignment showed the fracture fragment to dorsiflex without taking the lunate with a measured ERLF of more than 25°. The scaphoid did not follow the fracture fragment in both the patterns of malalignment. Conclusion: It is better to assess distal radial fractures for any wrist ligamentous injury on the post-reduction film with the restored radial anatomy than on the pre-reduction film since most carpal malalignments get corrected with the reduction of the fracture. Similar carpal malalignment reappear with the redisplacement of the fracture as seen in pre-reduction radiographs and develops during the immobilization rather than as a later compensatory mechanism for the malunion.


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