Is early internal fixation preferred to cast treatment for well-reduced unstable distal radial fractures?
GROUND: In the treatment of distal radial fractures, physicians often advocate internal fixation over cast treatment for potentially unstable fracture patterns, citing the difficulties of successful nonoperative treatment and a decrease in patient tolerance for functional deficiencies. This study was performed to evaluate whether early internal fixation or nonoperative treatment would be preferred for displaced, potentially unstable distal radial fractures that initially had an adequate reduction. METHODS: A decision analytic model was created to compare early internal fixation with use of a volar plate and nonoperative management of a displaced, potentially unstable distal radial fracture with an acceptable closed reduction. To identify the optimal treatment, quality-adjusted life expectancy was estimated for each management approach. Data from the literature were used to estimate rates of treatment complications (e.g., fracture redisplacement with nonoperative treatment) and of treat