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Distal radius fractures are often treated conservatively with immobilization. Immobilizing above the elbow limits forearm rotation, though recent literature has suggested the effects on radiographic or functional outcomes may be negligible. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to analyze the radiographic and functional outcome scores of distal radius fractures managed with short-arm (SA) immobilization and long-arm (LA) immobilization. An electronic systematic search was performed of the PubMed and EMBASE databases from inception to October 5, 2022. All randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving patients with acute distal radius fractures undergoing nonoperative treatment (involving application/maintenance of immobilization) comparing above-elbow versus below-elbow constructs were included. The outcomes of interest were changes in radiographic parameters (loss of volar tilt [VT], radial height [RH], and radial inclination [RI]), loss of reduction, requirement for surgery, and patient-reported functional outcomes (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, or Hand [DASH] or Quick DASH survey). The Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool 2.0 was used for study quality assessment. The effect size of the interventions was assessed using random effect models to calculate mean differences (MDs) for continuous variables and odds ratios (ORs) for categorical variables. Standardized mean difference (SMD) was calculated for patient-reported functional outcome scores. Nine studies involving 983 cases were included, including 497 SA and 486 LA. No statistically significant differences were observed with regards to VT (P = 0.83), RH (P = 0.81), RI (P = 0.35), loss of reduction (P = 0.33), requirement for surgery (P = 0.33), or patient-reported functional outcomes (P = 0.10). There was no difference in radiographic outcomes, need for surgery, or functional scores among patients treated with SA and LA immobilization. Utilizing SA immobilization is a safe option for conservative management of distal radius fractures and the benefits of mitigating complications associated with LA immobilization may supersede the theoretical limited forearm rotational stability observed with SA immobilization. Further study is required to determine the optimal method of SA immobilization.


This article was published in Cureus, Volume 16, Issue 3.

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2023 Chaudhry et al. CC BY 4.0.

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