Background: Vitamin C has been proposed to improve outcomes after a distal radial fracture by promotion of bone and soft-tissue healing and reduction of the prevalence of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Our primary aim was to examine the effect of vitamin C on functional outcome after a distal radial fracture.
Methods: A total of 336 adult patients with an acute fracture of the distal aspect of the radius were recruited over a one-year period and randomized to receive 500 mg of vitamin C or placebo daily for fifty days after the fracture. The primary outcomes were the DASH (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand) score at six weeks and at one year. Secondary variables included complications, wrist and finger motion, grip and pinch strength, pain, and a CRPS score.
Results: There were no significant differences in patient or fracture characteristics between the treatment groups. There was no significant effect of vitamin C on the DASH score throughout the study period. At six weeks, patients in the vitamin C group with a nondisplaced fracture had a significantly greater wrist flexion deficit (p = 0.008) and pinch strength deficit (p = 0.020) and a greater rate of CRPS (p = 0.022), but there was no difference in the CRPS rate at any other time point. At twenty-six weeks, there was a higher rate of complications (p = 0.043) and greater pain with use (p = 0.045) in the patients with a displaced fracture treated with vitamin C. There was no significant difference in the time to fracture-healing.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated no significant difference at one year in the DASH score, other functional outcomes, the rate of CRPS, or osseous healing of nondisplaced or displaced distal radial fractures treated with vitamin C compared with placebo. We conclude that administration of vitamin C confers no benefit to patients with a displaced or nondisplaced fracture of the distal aspect of the radius.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
1Edinburgh Orthopaedic Trauma Unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 51 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 4SU, United Kingdom. E-mail address for A.D. Duckworth: email@example.com
2Rheumatic Disease Unit, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, United Kingdom