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Complications of Kirschner-wire Fixation in Distal Radius Fractures

Subramanian, Padmanabhan MBBS, BSc (Hons), MRCS (Lon)*; Kantharuban, Shanjitha MBBS; Shilston, Sophie MBBS, MRCS; Pearce, Oliver James MBBS, MRCS, FRCS (Tr & Ortho)

Techniques in Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery: September 2012 - Volume 16 - Issue 3 - p 120–123
doi: 10.1097/BTH.0b013e31824b9ab0

Distal radius and ulna fractures are the most common fractures seen in England, occurring at a rate of 22/10,000 person years. Kirschner (K)-wire fixation is a well-accepted method of treating these fractures. There is a surprising paucity of evidence on the subject of prophylactic antibiotics and the duration of K wires can be left in, as these relate to infection rates. We therefore present the results of our protocol for distal radius K-wire fixation for which: no antibiotic prophylaxis was given; we used a percutaneous (not buried) technique, where the K wires were removed after 4 weeks, and the patient has a total of 6 weeks in cast (last 2 wk without wires). The results of the last 100 consecutive patients who were treated with manipulation and K wiring of dorsally displaced distal radial fractures in a standard district general hospital over a 2-year period were analyzed retrospectively. A total of 100 patients had 176 K wires inserted. The mean age was 32.5 years. The mean time to pin removal was 29.4 days. The infection rate was 2%. These results illustrate a safe and clinically effective protocol for K-wire fixation in treating distal radius fractures. On the basis of this study, we do not advocate the use of prophylactic antibiotics, postulating that they do not affect infection rate and thereby eliminating potential antibiotic adverse effects. Furthermore, we do not bury the K wires, which allows for their removal in clinic, thus preventing risks of further operative procedures.

*North East Thames London Orthopaedic Rotation, Whipps Cross Hospital, London

Milton Keynes Hospital, Eaglestone, Milton Keynes, UK

Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: The authors report no conflicts of interest and no source of funding.

This paper has been presented as a poster at the FOSC (Future orthopaedic Surgeons Conference), which took place in Edinburg, Scotland in July 2011.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Padmanabhan Subramanian, MBBS, BSc (Hons), MRCS (Lon), North East Thames London Orthopaedic Rotation, Whipps Cross Hospital, Whipps Cross Road, London E11 1NR, UK. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.