General Editor: Chris Colton

Authors: Fergal Monsell, Dalia Sepulveda

Pediatric distal forearm 23r-E/4.1

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1 Introduction top


These intraarticular fractures require adult principles of anatomical reduction and stable fixation.

In addition, experimental work has suggested that the alignment and complete (“watertight”) closure of the growth plate is necessary to prevent bony bridging across the physis.


  • Gomes LS, Volpon JB. Experimental physeal fracture-separations treated with rigid internal fixation. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1993 Dec;75(12):1756-1764.

Closed reduction is unlikely to satisfy these criteria and it is therefore usually necessary to perform an open reduction.

2 Reduction top


Indirect reduction

Reduction can be attempted using direct pressure, determined by the anatomy of the fracture.

Critical assessment of postreduction x-rays is essential. Any imperfection of position strongly indicates an open procedure.


Direct reduction using a bone clamp

Direct reduction can be achieved with a bone clamp taking care to avoid the dorsal sensory branch of the radial nerve.


Confirmation of reduction

Ideally, reduction should be confirmed using image intensification.

Pearl: An arthrogram of the wrist will give the most accurate confirmation of articular reduction.

3 K-wire fixation top


Skin incision

K-wire fixation of the metaphyseal fragment is only justifiable if the fragment is too small to take an implant.

A small skin incision is made for K-wire insertion.

The incision is deepened to the bone using a blunt artery forceps and a protective sleeve inserted.

Care should be taken to avoid the dorsal sensory branch of the radial nerve.


Insertion of the intraepiphyseal K-wire

A smooth 1.25-1.6 mm K-wire is inserted through the radial epiphysis in a direction determined by the fracture pattern. The K-wire should ideally cross the fracture plane as near to 90° as the fracture anatomy permits.

The wire should be inserted with an oscillating drill and cooled with saline solution to prevent thermal injury.

The wire may also be inserted by hand using a T-handle.


Ideally, the K-wire is inserted using image intensifier control, in order to check the trajectory of the wire.


Alternative: Cannulated screw

In the child nearing skeletal maturity an intra epiphyseal lag screw can be inserted. Using the intraepiphyseal wire as a guide, a cannulated screw is inserted over the wire with the appropriate soft-tissue protection, provided the full instrumentation is available.


Insertion of a second K-wire

In order to add stability, a second wire is inserted as near as possible to 90° to the metaphyseal fracture line.


If the metaphyseal fragment is too small to accept a wire, then a second wire can be inserted through the radial epiphysis, the physis and engaging the medial cortex of the radial metaphysis.


Ideally, reduction should be confirmed using image intensification, or arthrography.


The K-wires are left protruding through the skin, bent and cut. The skin is protected with sterile padding prior to application of a cast.

The illustration demonstrates the use of a small section of plastic tubing over the cut ends of the protruding wire. This adds further protection for the skin.

Note: Excessive pressure between dressing and skin should be avoided to prevent skin necrosis.

4 Short arm cast top


General considerations

The purpose of the cast is protective and for pain relief, as stability is provided by the K-wire(s).

The short arm cast is applied according to standard procedure:

Note: In young, small, or noncompliant patients, it is safer to apply a long arm cast.


Splitting the cast

If a complete cast is applied in the acute phase after injury, it is safer to split the cast down to skin over its full length.

5 Long arm cast top


In the event that a long arm cast is necessary (see above) it is applied and split according to standard procedure:

v1.0 2016-12-01