Incidence of Infection in Operatively Treated Distal Radius Fractures After Conversion From External to Internal Fixation

Erik M. Fritz, Daniel P. Donato, Jerald R. Westberg, Jacqueline A. Geissler, Christina M. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to report the incidence of infection after conversion from external fixation (EF) to internal fixation (IF) of distal radius fractures and to evaluate the relationship between infection and secondary variables, including time to conversion from EF to IF, internal hardware overlapping EF pin sites, and definitive fixation with a dorsal-spanning bridge plate.

METHODS: A retrospective review was performed at 2 level 1 trauma centers including all patients aged ≥18 years from 2006 to 2019 with a distal radius fracture treated initially with EF followed by subsequent IF. The patients were excluded from analysis if they had <10 weeks of clinical follow-up, a history of prior distal radius surgery, or evidence of infection before EF to IF conversion. Patient demographic data, mechanism of injury, presence of hardware overlapping pin sites, and timing to definitive fixation were obtained from the medical records. Infection was defined as positive intraoperative cultures or documented return to the operating room for debridement after IF.

RESULTS: A total of 64 fractures in 61 patients with a median age of 50 years (range, 18-75 years) were included. Infections developed in 6 patients (6 of 64 fractures). The incidence of infection was higher in patients with a time to conversion from EF to IF of >14 days (infection in 2 of 5 patients vs 4 of 59 patients). The incidence of infection was similar in patients with and without hardware overlapping EF pin sites (3 of 27 vs 3 of 37, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Infections occurred in 6 of 64 distal radius fractures following conversion from EF to IF, and delay in conversion of >14 days was associated with an increased infection risk.


Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184.e1-184.e7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Society for Surgery of the Hand


  • Distal radius fracture
  • external fixation
  • infection

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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