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Hand (N Y). 2011 Mar;6(1):8-17. doi: 10.1007/s11552-010-9281-9. Epub 2010 Jun 22.

Surgical approaches to the distal radius.

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Rothman Institute, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University, 925 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 USA.



Fractures of the distal radius are among the most common fractures seen. They encompass a myriad of presentations and fracture patterns that often benefit from various open reduction and internal fixation techniques-including volar plating, dorsal plating, radial plating, intramedullary nailing, and fragment-specific fixation. In order to obtain optimal reduction of these fractures, surgeons require a thorough understanding of the anatomy and various surgical exposures.


The distal radius is surrounded by a soft tissue envelope rich in vascularity and cutaneous innervation. The osseous surface consists of two articular surfaces and three cortical sides covered almost entirely by soft tissue.


Approaches to the distal radius can be broadly divided into volar, radial, and dorsal. Visualization of the articular surface can be accomplished best arthroscopically. Arthroscopy can be performed alone or in conjunction with other open approaches to the distal radius.


This article will review the pertinent anatomy and various surgical approaches in order to facilitate the surgeon's ability to safely expose a distal radius fracture.


Distal radius; Dorsal approach; Exposure; Henry’s approach; Radial approach; Thompson’s approach; Volar approach

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