This prospective randomized study evaluated sixty patients with an isolated fracture of the distal part of the radius treated with a single fixed angle volar plate and screws. Thirty patients were randomized to an early motion group with the removal of the orthoplast splint initiated at an average of eight days postoperatively compared with thirty patients that were immobilized continuously with an orthoplast splint until six weeks postoperatively. Patients were evaluated at three and six months postoperatively.
There were no significant differences between the early motion group and the late motion group with regard to average flexion-extension arc of the injured wrist after surgery. In addition, there were no significant differences with respect to other motions, grip strength, radiographic parameters or the Gartland and Werley, Mayo, pain, or DASH scores. There was no loss of reduction in either group.
This study failed to show any obvious benefit at three and six months postoperatively of early mobilization following ORIF with a volar distal radius plate. However, there did not appear to be any significant risk with early mobilization either. Therefore, it does appear that early mobilization can be initiated in a safe fashion in these patients following surgery. It must be understood, however, that early motion allows for a more rapid functional recovery, not a greater amount of ultimate motion or function.