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J Orthop Surg Res. 2012 Feb 17;7(1):8. doi: 10.1186/1749-799X-7-8.

Palmar and dorsal fixed-angle plates in AO C-type fractures of the distal radius: is there an advantage of palmar plates in the long term?

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Department of Trauma-, Hand-, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Germany.



Current surgical approaches to the distal radius include dorsal and palmar plate fixation. While palmar plates have gained widespread popularity, few reports have provided data on long term clinical outcomes in comparison. This paper reports the result of a randomised clinical study comparing dorsal Pi plates and palmar, angle-stable plates for treatment of comminuted, intraarticular fractures of the distal radius over the course of twelve months.


42 patients with unilateral, intraarticular fractures of the distal radius were included and randomised to 2 groups, 22 were treated with a palmar plate, 20 received a dorsal Pi-plate. Results were evaluated after 6 weeks, 3, 6 and 12 months postoperatively focussing on functional recovery as well as radiological results.


The palmar plate group demonstrated significantly better results regarding range of motion and grip strength over the course of 12 months. While a comparable increase in function was observed in both groups, the better results from the early postoperative period in the palmar plate group prevailed over the whole course. Radiological results showed a significantly increased palmar tilt and carpal sag in dorsal plates, with other radiological parameters being comparable. Pain levels were decreased in dorsal plates after hardware removal and failed to show significant differences after 12 months. However, complications such as tendon ruptures were more frequent in the dorsal plate group.


Functional advantage of palmar plates gained within the first 6 weeks prevails over the course of a year. Both groups demonstrate further gradual increase of function after 6 months, although dorsal plates did not catch up completely. Improved early postoperative function seems to be the cornerstone for the best possible results. Patients with dorsal plates benefit from hardware removal more than palmar plates in terms of reduction of pain levels. The advantage of palmar plates is a faster functional recovery with lower complication rates. This is especially important in the elderly population. Radiological results did not show a superiority of palmar plates over dorsal plates.

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