Internal fixation of pilon fractures of the distal radius

Trumble TE, Schmitt SR, Vedder NB. Internal fixation of pilon fractures of the
distal radius. Yale J Biol Med. 1993 May-Jun;66(3):179-91


When closed manipulation fails to restore articular congruity in comminuted, displaced fractures of the distal radius, open reduction and internal fixation is required. Results of surgical stabilization and articular reconstruction of these injuries are reviewed in this retrospective study of 49 patients with 52 displaced, intra-articular distal radius fractures. Forty-three patients (87%) with a mean age of 37 years (range of 17 to 79 years) were available for evaluation. The mean follow-up time was 38 months (range 22-69 months). When rated according to the Association for the Study of Internal Fixation (ASIF), 19 were type C2 and 21 were type C3. We devised an Injury Score System based on the initial injury radiographs to classify severely comminuted intra-articular fractures and to identify those associated with carpal injury (3 patients). Post-operative fracture alignment, articular congruity, and radial length were significantly improved following surgery (p < .01). Grip strength averaged 69% +/- 22% of the contralateral side, and the range of motion averaged 75% +/- 18% of the contralateral side post-operatively. A combined outcome rating system that included grip strength, range of motion, and pain relief averaged 76% +/- 19% of the contralateral side. There was a statistically significant decrease in the combined rating with more severe fracture patterns as defined by the ASIF system (p < .01), Malone classification (p < .03), and the Injury Score System (p < .001). The Injury Score System presented here, and in particular the number of fracture fragments, correlated most closely with outcome of all the classification systems studied. Operative treatment of these distal radius fractures with reconstruction of the articular congruity and correction of the articular surface alignment with internal fixation and/or external fixation, can significantly improve the radiographic alignment and functional outcome. Furthermore, the degree to which articular stepoff, gap between fragments, and radial shortening are improved by surgery is strongly correlated with improved outcome, even when the results are corrected for severity of initial injury, whereas correction of radial tilt or dorsal tilt did not correlate with improved outcome

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