The purpose of this study was to characterize the incidence of growth disturbance following intra-articular distal radius fractures in skeletally immature patients and to assess early radiographic and functional outcomes.
A retrospective investigation of pediatric patients with intra-articular distal radius fractures between 1997 and 2012 at a single institution was performed. Pathologic fractures and fractures in patients with closed physes were excluded. In total, 28 patients (24 males, 4 females), with a mean age of 13.8 years and mean follow-up of 31.7 months, met inclusion criteria. Fractures were categorized according to the Salter-Harris classification, and all radiographs were assessed for evidence of physeal disturbance. Information regarding treatment and early clinical results were obtained from a medical record review. Functional outcomes using the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) and Modified Mayo Wrist Score (MMWS) were collected. Fisher exact test was used to compare the incidence of physeal arrest in the study population to previously published rates of physeal arrest in extra-articular fractures involving the distal radius. Because the data were not parametrically distributed, the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon test was used to compare those who did and did not develop physeal arrest.
Of the 28 patients, 9 (32%) sustained Salter-Harris III fractures and 19 (68%) sustained Salter-Harris IV fractures. Growth disturbance occurred in 12 (43%) patients, comprised of 3 Salter-Harris III fractures and 9 Salter-Harris IV fractures; 7 of these patients underwent surgical intervention to address deformity. All 4 children age 10 years or younger had growth arrests that underwent subsequent procedures for a skeletal rebalancing of the wrist. No significant differences in DASH or MMWS were seen in the short term between patients who did or did not have physeal arrest.
Intra-articular distal radius fractures in skeletally immature patients have a considerably higher rate of physeal growth arrest than extra-articular physeal fractures. Following acute management aimed at restoring and preserving anatomic physeal and articular alignment, follow-up radiographs should be obtained to evaluate for physeal arrest in skeletally immature children. Patients and families should be counseled regarding the high rate of growth disturbance and the potential need for deformity correction in the future, particularly in younger children.
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