Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Third Hospital of Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, China.
Objective: This study aimed to compare the clinical and radiologic outcomes of AO titanium locking plate and screw (ATLPS) and anterograde intramedullary (AIM) fixation for treating unstable metacarpal and phalangeal fractures.
Methods: Adult patients with isolated fresh unstable metacarpal and phalangeal fractures who met the inclusion criteria were enrolled into this prospective study from July 2013. Patients were divided into ATLPS or AIM groups when they were admitted to our department after considering their work requirement, fracture complexity, and surgeon's experience and were then treated accordingly. Relevant demographic, clinical and preoperative clinical data were collected and analyzed. Clinical examination and radiograph evaluation were performed 1 week and 1, 3, and 6 months postoperatively. Outcome measures were visual analog scale (VAS) scores for pain, total range of motion (ROM) of the injured digit, Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand scores (Quick-DASH) and grip strength (percentage of the contralateral corresponding digit).
Results: From July 2013 to September 2014, 76 patients were treated by AIM and 71 by ATLPS. Age, sex, time from injury to operation, dominant hand, injury mechanism, fracture location, fracture type and participant occupation were similar in both groups (P > 0.05). Operations were all performed well and followed by uneventful postoperative functional recoveries. At 3-month follow-up, all clinical outcomes were significantly better in the AIM than ATLPS group ( P < 0.05) except for VAS pain scores. However, at 6-month follow-up, the differences were no longer significant, indicating similar results for both types of fixation. Patients in the AIM group developed significantly more complications ( P = 0.037). Sick leave was significantly longer in the AIM group ( P = 0.02).
Conclusions: AIM outperforms ATLPS in the treatment of unstable metacarpal and phalangeal fractures in the early, but not the later, postoperative period; the latter is associated with significantly more complications. Patients treated by ATLPS require shorter sick leave, which is of particular benefit to workers with specialized manual skills.