Volar Fixation for Dorsally Angulated Extra-Articular Fractures of the Distal Radius: A Biomechanical Study

Shukuki Koh, Randal P. Morris, Rita M. Patterson, J. Patrick Kearney, William L. Buford, Steven F. Viegas

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67 Scopus citations


Purpose: To compare the biomechanical properties of 10 volar plate-fixation designs in 2 fracture models (dorsal wedge osteotomy, segmental resection osteotomy models). Methods: Forty-eight radiuses were used in this study including 8 pairs. In 40 specimens a 15-mm dorsally based wedge osteotomy was performed and the volar cortex was fractured manually. They were arranged into 10 fixation groups with 5 different fixation designs (test 1). In the contralateral specimens of 8 paired radiuses a 10-mm segment of bone was excised (test 2). Four of the 10 fixation systems were chosen for these specimens. Cadaver hands and the proximal radiuses were potted in polymethylmethacrylate and tested with a servohydraulic materials testing machine with 300 N of axial compression load at 1 N/s initially and after each 1,000 cycles up to 5,000 cycles. After cyclic loading the specimens were loaded to failure in axial compression at 2 mm/min. The stiffness, failure peak load, and failure mode of each specimen were recorded. Results: In test 1 in the wedge osteotomy specimens the T plate was the stiffest and the Synthes titanium plate was the least stiff; however, all specimens completed the 5,000 cycles of loading with no failures. There was no significant difference between the 10 fixation groups in failure peak load and only 7 of 40 failed at the distal portion of the hardware in the final load to failure testing. In test 2 the resection osteotomy specimens were less stiff and failed at a lower failure peak load compared with the wedge osteotomy specimens. Failure at the distal portion of the fixation system was seen in 7 of 8 specimens; nonlocking screws loosened and tines compressed the surrounding bone, resulting in tine-hole enlargement. Conclusions: All of the plate-fixation systems delivered sufficient stability to permit the simulated postoperative regimen of 1 week of immobilization followed by 5 weeks of early mobilization until expected union at 6 weeks after surgery. Based on these results a preferable volar fixation system would appear to benefit from the following: (1) sufficient plate strength to support the distal fragment from the volar side, (2) a locking system with sufficient strength to remain locked during the healing process, and (3) a distal design that does not affect the bone adversely. The anatomic reduction of the volar cortex in the wedge osteotomy specimens added stability to the construct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-779
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Biomechanics
  • distal radius fracture
  • internal fixation
  • plate


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