Is early mobilization after volar locking plate fixation in distal radius fractures really beneficial? A meta-analysis of prospective randomized studies

Jun Ku Lee, Byung Ho Yoon, Byungsoo Kim, Cheungsoo Ha, Minkyu Kil, Jeong In Shon, Hyun Il Lee

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2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Study design: This was a systematic review with a meta-analysis. Introduction: Despite rising trends toward surgical treatment of distal radius fractures (DRF) with volar locking plate (VLP) fixation, there is a lack of consensus on when to start vigorous wrist range of motion (ROM) exercises after surgery. Purpose: We performed a meta-analysis to compare early and late mobilization after VLP fixation in patients with DRF. Methods: Four prospective randomized controlled trials with a minimum of 6 months of follow-up were retrieved through MEDLINE (PubMed), EMBASE, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, and the KoreaMed databases in March 2021. We divided patients into an early group (patients who started ROM exercises of the wrist within 2 weeks after surgery), and a late group (patients who started ROM exercises 5 or 6 weeks after surgery). The primary outcome was treatment efficacy which was measured through improvement in pain score, function score, ROM, and grip power. The secondary outcome was the incidence of postoperative complications. Results: This meta-analysis included 127 patients in the early group and 131 patients in the late group. The outcomes were compared at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months postoperatively. There was no significant difference in pain score, though the early group had a lower average visual analog scale score. The early group had a lower arm, shoulder, and hand disability score than the late group (95 % CI, -16.25 to -8.35 points; P < .001) at 6 weeks postoperatively, suggesting significantly superior outcomes. A similar trend persisted at 3 (n = 74 in the early group and n = 77 in the late group; 95% CI, -5.45 to -0.30; P = .029) and 6 months (n = 102 in the early group and n = 100 in the late group; 95% CI, -4.81 to 0.21; P = .073), but the differences were smaller. The early group had a higher grip power at all follow-up periods, but the difference was only significant at 6 months postoperatively (n = 88 in the early group and n = 83 in the late group; 95% CI, 0.50 to 6.99; P = 0.024). The early group also had more favorable ROM in all directions at 6 weeks, but only in supination at 6 months. The complication rate was not significantly different between the 2 groups. There were no differences in the rates of secondary operation and reduction loss. Conclusion: Early ROM exercise after VLP in DRF resulted in superior functional scores and grip power until 6 months postoperatively. The dominance of the joint ROM, which was seen at 6 weeks after surgery in the early exercise group, decreased with time and ultimately showed little difference at 6 months. Early exercise is safe and did not increase complication rates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Hand Therapy
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Distal radius fracture
  • Immobilization
  • Range of motion
  • Rehabilitation
  • Volar locking plate
  • Wrist

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