Early complications of volar plating of distal radius fractures and their relationship to surgeon experience

Christina M. Ward, Taften L. Kuhl, Brian D. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Fractures of the distal radius are among the most common fractures in adults. Recently, there has been a trend towards open reduction and internal fixation of these fractures through a volar approach. The purpose of this study was to assess the early complications of volar locking plate fixation of distal radius fractures with an emphasis on defining the relationship between surgeon experience and incidence of complications. Materials and Methods: Following IRB approval, we conducted a retrospective chart review of the initial 96 distal radius fractures (92 patients) treated by open reduction and internal fixation of distal radius fracture using a volar locked plate. Our outcome measurements were incidence of postoperative complications and radiographic loss of reduction. Results: Twenty-two complications occurred in 21 patients. Of these, five complications (5%) required surgical treatment or hospitalization. Seventeen complications (18%) required no surgical intervention or hospitalization. Transient nerve dysfunction was the most common complication, accounting for 12 of 22 complications. The first 30 patients experienced significantly more complications than those treated later in the series (p = 0. 03). There was a trend towards increased incidence of complications in cases where more than 10 days elapsed between injury and surgery or where supplementary Kirschner wire fixation was used. There was no correlation between patient age, sex, severity of fracture, or presence of ulnar styloid fracture and the development of complications or loss of reduction. Discussion: The incidence of complications decreased significantly with increased surgeon experience, suggesting that many of these early complications are avoidable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-189
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Distal radius fracture
  • Learning curve
  • Surgery complications
  • Volar plating


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