Proximal forearm fractures: epidemiology, functional results and predictors of outcome
Duckworth, Andrew David
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Proximal forearm fractures account for over 10% of all upper limb fractures. There is limited epidemiological data available and much of the literature focuses on the more complex fracture patterns, with the role of non-operative management for the isolated proximal forearm fracture still to be defined. Prospective short and long-term patient reported outcome data for simple isolated fractures of the radial head and olecranon would help define the indications for the non-operative management of these injuries. This thesis aims to test the hypothesis that non-operative management provides a comparable outcome to operative intervention for defined fractures of the proximal forearm. A large prospective database of 6872 fractures collected over a one-year period was used to define the epidemiology of proximal forearm fractures. A separate large prospective study carried out over an eighteen-month period using a pre-defined management protocol for all isolated radial head and neck fractures was analysed to determine the short and long-term outcome. Additional retrospective databases were collected and analysed to determine the short and long-term outcome for the non-operative and operative management of olecranon fractures, as well as the operative management of complex radial head fractures. Finally, two prospective randomised controlled trials (PRCTs) of isolated displaced fractures of the olecranon were carried out to compare 1) tension band wire (TBW) versus plate fixation in younger patients (<75 years) and 2) operative versus non-operative management in elderly patients (≥75 years). The primary outcome measure for these studies was the upper limb specific patient reported Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score. Secondary outcome measures included surgeon reported outcome scores, complication rates and cost. The incidence of proximal forearm fractures was 68 per 100,000. Radial head fractures fit a type D distribution curve (unimodal young man, bimodal woman) and radial neck type A (unimodal young man, unimodal older woman). Proximal ulna and olecranon fractures were both a type F (unimodal older man, unimodal older woman), with an increasing incidence after the 6th decade. Over 90% of proximal radial fractures were isolated stable fractures. Prospective analysis of 201 isolated proximal radius fractures found that the patient and surgeon reported outcome following primary non-operative management for Mason type 1 and type 2 (n=185) fractures was excellent in the short and long-term, with <2% of patients undergoing secondary surgical intervention. At a mean of 10 years post injury (n=100), the mean DASH score was 5.8 and 92% of patients were satisfied. Factors associated with a poorer short and long-term patient reported outcome included increasing fracture displacement (≥5mm) and socio-economic deprivation. Retrospective analysis of 105 acute unstable complex radial head fractures found that the mean short-term functional outcome was good (mean Broberg and Morrey Score 80) following radial head replacement. In the long-term (mean 7 years), 28% of patients required removal or revision of the prosthesis, with younger patients and silastic implants independent risk factors (both p<0.05). Retrospective analysis of 36 operatively managed isolated displaced olecranon fractures found satisfactory short and long-term outcomes, with the symptomatic metalwork removal rate 47% and the mean DASH 2.5 at a mean of seven years post injury. In the PRCT of plate (n=34) versus TBW (n=33) fixation, comparable functional and patient reported outcomes (DASH 8.5 vs 13.5; p=0.252) were found at one year following injury. Complication rates were significantly higher in the TBW group (63.3% vs 37.5%; p=0.042), predominantly due to a significantly higher rate of symptomatic metalwork removal (50.0% vs 21.9%; p=0.021), resulting in equivocal costs for both techniques (p=0.131). In older lower-demand patients, short and long-term retrospective analysis found very satisfactory outcomes following non-operative management of isolated displaced fractures of the olecranon, with patient satisfaction 91% and no patients requiring surgery for a symptomatic non-union. The preliminary results of the PRCT of non-operative (n=8) versus operative (n=11) management demonstrated comparable functional and patient reported outcomes at all points over the one-year following injury (all p≥0.05), with a higher rate of complications (81.8% vs 14.3%; p=0.013) and cost (p=0.01) following surgical intervention. The association found between fragility and the epidemiology of proximal forearm fractures highlighted the importance of considering non-operative management for these injuries. These findings support non-operative management for isolated stable radial head and neck fractures. For more complex injuries when radial head replacement is indicated, there is a high rate of removal or revision, with younger patients most at risk. In younger active patients with an isolated displaced fracture of the olecranon, TBW and plate fixation provide comparable short-term results, with TBW fixation as cost effective despite an increased rate of metalwork removal. In older lower demand patients, this data provides strong evidence for the non-operative management of isolated displaced olecranon fractures.