Scientific article| Volume 42, ISSUE 12, P1034.e1-1034.e6, December 2017

Volar Capsular Release After Distal Radius Fractures

Published:September 14, 2017DOI:


      Loss of full wrist range of motion is common after treatment of distal radius fractures. Loss of wrist extension limiting functional activities, although uncommon, can occur after volar plating of distal radius fractures. Unlike other joints in which capsular release is a common form of treatment for stiffness, this has been approached with caution in the wrist owing to concerns for carpal instability. We tested the null hypothesis that hardware removal and open volar capsular release would not lead to improved upper extremity-specific patient-reported outcome (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand [DASH] questionnaire).


      We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients who underwent a tenolysis of the flexor carpi radialis tendon, removal of hardware, and subperiosteal release of the volar capsule (extrinsic ligaments). The primary outcome measure was patient-reported outcome on the DASH. Secondary outcomes included wrist flexion, extension, pronation, and supination, visual analog scale for pain, and radiographs/fluoroscopy for ulnocarpal translocation.


      Eleven patients were treated with a mean follow-up of 4.5 years. Mean DASH scores improved after surgery. Mean wrist flexion, wrist extension, pronation, and supination improved after surgery. Mean visual analog scale scores did not change. The radiocarpal relationship on radiographs/fluoroscopy was normal.


      Open volar capsular release to regain wrist extension after treatment of distal radius fractures with volar locking plates is safe and effective. Patients regain wrist extension in addition to improved DASH scores. There were no radiographic/fluoroscopic or clinical signs of ulnocarpal translocation after release of the volar extrinsic ligaments.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic IV.

      Key words

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