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J Hand Surg Am. 1998 Sep;23(5):926-32.

Load relaxation and forces with activity in Hoffman external fixators: a clinical study in patients with Colles' fractures.

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Department of Surgery, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


A small-frame Hoffman external fixation bar instrumented with strain gauges to quantify bending and torsional forces was applied to 4 patients with a displaced metaphyseal fracture of the distal radius. Measurements were taken during surgery as well as at 1, 3, and 6 weeks after surgery during activities of daily living and hand therapy mobilization. Radiographs also were taken before and after reduction and at each subsequent visit. Force decay occurred after reduction of the fracture, averaging only 26% of the initial distraction forces by 5 minutes. These forces plateaued and did not significantly change over the subsequent 40-minute observation period. There was no correlation between carpal height index and the forces measured in the external fixator. Significant changes in external fixator forces were measured during activities of daily living and hand therapy mobilization, but these returned to baseline after the activities were performed. The most provocative activities studied were twisting a doorknob and lifting heavy objects. These activities should be performed with caution by patients with unstable distal radial fractures.

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