Corrective osteotomy is an appealing treatment for malunited articular fractures of the distal part of the radius since articular incongruity may be the factor most strongly associated with arthrosis and diminished function after such fractures. Enthusiasm for osteotomy has been limited by concerns regarding the difficulty of the technique and the potential for additional injury, osteonecrosis, and nonunion.
Twenty-three skeletally mature patients were evaluated at an average of thirty-eight months after corrective osteotomy for an intra-articular malunion of the distal part of the radius.
The indication for the osteotomy included dorsal or volar subluxation of the radiocarpal joint in fourteen patients and articular incongruity of ≥2 mm as measured on a posteroanterior radiograph in seventeen patients. Six patients had combined intra-articular and extra-articular malunion. The average interval from the injury to the osteotomy was six months. The average maximum step-off or gap of the articular surface prior to the operation was 4 mm.
One patient had a subsequent partial wrist arthrodesis because of radiocarpal arthrosis, and three patients had additional surgery because of dysfunction of the distal radioulnar joint. One patient had a rupture of the extensor pollicis longus, which was treated with a tendon transfer. The final articular incongruity averaged 0.4 mm, and the final grip strength averaged 85% of that on the contralateral side. The rate of excellent or good results was 83% according to the rating systems of Fernandez and of Gartland and Werley, and 43% according to a modification of the rating system of Green and O'Brien.
The results of corrective osteotomy for the treatment of intraarticular malunion are comparable with those of osteotomy for the treatment of extra-articular malunion. Intra-articular osteotomy can be performed with acceptable safety and efficacy, it improves wrist function, and it may help to limit the need for salvage procedures such as partial or total wrist arthrodesis.