Purpose: The volar approach with locked plating is a common treatment for intra-articular distal radius fractures. The purpose of this study was to arthroscopically assess the articular surface after internal fixation through the volar approach as a means to evaluate the ability of an extra-articular reduction to anatomically restore the joint surface. Methods: Sixteen patients with intra-articular distal radius fractures were prospectively enrolled. A volar approach and internal fixation using a locked volar plate was performed. Using a visual analog scale (VAS), the fracture reduction was clinically graded on the quality of reduction of the visible metaphyseal fracture lines, fluoroscopically graded, and arthroscopic graded. Maximum step and gap deformity were recorded from arthroscopy and plain radiograph. Results: The mean VAS score for the fracture reduction based on extra-articular fracture lines was 7.4. The mean VAS score for the fluoroscopic reduction was 8.2. The mean VAS score for the arthroscopic reduction was 6.4. The arthroscopic VAS score was significantly lower than the VAS score for fluoroscopy but was not significantly different than the VAS score for metaphyseal reduction. Mean arthroscopic measurement of maximum step and gap deformity were 1 mm and 2 mm, respectively. Mean postoperative radiographic maximum step and gap deformity were both less than 1 mm. The arthroscopic step and gap deformities were significantly greater than the radiographic deformities. Conclusions: A volar approach, indirect reduction, and locked plate fixation is a useful technique in restoring articular congruity after distal radius fracture. The number of fracture lines and presence of step and gap deformity can be adequately assessed using clinical and fluoroscopic assessment. However, the magnitude of step and gap deformity may be underestimated. Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic IV.
- distal radius fracture
- volar approach