Distal radius fractures in the pediatric population are common injuries with a remarkable capability to remodel. The degree of angulation that can reasonably be expected to remodel is controversial though, particularly when it comes to angulation in the coronal plane. The purpose of this study was to quantify the rate of coronal remodeling, via the distal radius physis, present in a retrospective cohort of skeletally immature patients with coronally angulated distal radius fractures.
A retrospective chart review was performed to identify skeletally immature patients treated for an angulated distal radius fracture with over 10 degrees of angulation in the coronal plane during the healing process at a single institution by either a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon or an orthopaedic trauma surgeon from 2009 to 2018. Coronal angulation was measured at every visit where radiographs were available from time of injury to the final follow-up visit to determine the rate of remodeling.
In total, 36 patients with distal radius fractures with a mean age of 7.93 years (range, 4 to 12 y) at the time of injury were identified. The median peak angulation during the healing process in the coronal plane was 17 degrees (range, 12.4 to 30.4 degrees). The mean follow-up period was 6.4 months from the time of maximum angulation to the final visit. The median time from cast removal to final follow-up was 6.59 months (range, 2.5 to 8.72 mo). At final follow-up, the median coronal angulation was 3.35 degrees (range, 0.24 to 14.0 degrees). At the 95% confidence level, remodeling rates ranged from 2.00 to 2.59 degrees per month. The mean rate of coronal angulation remodeling from maximum angulation to final follow-up was 2.30 degrees per month.
Distal radius fractures have a large capacity to remodel in the pediatric population. This remodeling occurs in a predictable and reliable manner, even in the coronal plane. On the basis of this study, coronal angulation was shown to remodel at a rate of at least 2 degrees per month for the first 6 months following the injury, which should likely continue at a similar rate for the first year after the injury. Repeat manipulation is not indicated in skeletally immature patients where the maximum coronal angulation is <24 degrees, which provides a conservative estimate of the amount of remodeling that can be expected to occur in the first year after fracture.
Level of Evidence:
Level III—retrospective comparative study.