Scientific article| Volume 44, ISSUE 11, P987.e1-987.e9, November 2019

Complications of Corrective Osteotomies for Extra-Articular Distal Radius Malunion

Published:February 04, 2019DOI:


      Osteotomy of the distal radius for a fracture malunion is a challenging procedure. The purpose of this study was to review a series of osteotomies to determine the type and risk of complications.


      A retrospective cohort study was performed, including all Kaiser Permanente Southern California patients who were aged 18 years or older between January 1, 2007, and September 25, 2015, and underwent osteotomy for an extra-articular distal radius fracture malunion. Charts were reviewed for demographic data, comorbidities, osteotomy type (hinged vs distraction), implant, and bone graft type. Complications including infection, nonunion, loss of reduction, implant failure, nerve injury, tendon injury, and complex regional pain syndrome were recorded.


      There were 60 patients who underwent extra-articular osteotomy of the distal radius for malunion during the study period. The mean age was 54 years (range, 21–83 years). There were 24 distraction-type (intervening bone graft) and 36 hinge-type (volar cortical contact maintained) osteotomies. Twenty-five of 60 patients had complications related to the procedure requiring 13 subsequent procedures. There were 7 nonunions and 3 cases of delayed healing at the osteotomy site. One extensor carpi radialis longus tendon laceration resulted from the use of an osteotome. There were 3 delayed extensor pollicis longus (EPL) tendon ruptures after surgery. The distraction-type osteotomy was associated with a greater risk of major complications including nonunion and delayed union.


      A complication rate of nearly 50% was observed in distal radius osteotomies. Surgeons should be aware of the risk of injury to, or delayed rupture of the EPL tendon associated with these procedures. The risk of nonunion or delayed union is higher in distraction-type compared with hinge-type osteotomies. Low surgeon volume with this procedure may be a contributing factor to the high rate of complications.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic IV.

      Key words

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