Treatment of distal radius fractures : clinical outcome, regional variation and health economics

Sammanfattning: A distal radius fracture (DRF) remains the most common fracture encountered in health care. DRFs have traditionally been treated with a plaster or surgically with percutaneous methods. Since the end of the 20th century, when internal fixation with a volar locking plate (VLP) was introduced, the incidence of DRF surgery in general and of plating in particular have increased markedly. The change in practice took place despite the lack of evidence of the superiority of VLPs over percutaneous methods for adult patients and over non-operative treatment for elderly patients. The aim of this thesis was to compare clinical outcome between treatment methods and to describe regional variation in surgical treatment of DRFs in Sweden. Study I was a descriptive study using registry data from 22 378 individuals in the Swedish national patient registry from 2010 to 2013. There was a large variation in surgical treatment regimens for DRFs among the 21 health care regions, not explained by age or gender. Proportions of internal fixation varied from 41% to 95%, pin fixation varied from 2% to 44% and external fixation (EF) varied from 1% to 19%. Study II and IV constituted a three-year follow-up of 118 and 113 patients respectively, 50-74 years old with an unstable dorsally displaced DRF, from a previously published randomized controlled trial of 140 patients, allocated to VLP or EF. Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) as well as grip-strength, range of motion, occurrence of osteoarthritis and complication rates presented in Study II, were similar in both groups. The VLP group displayed a higher mean total cost and less gained quality of life adjusted life-years (QALYs) compared with the EF group, indicating in Study IV that VLP is not cost-effective in comparison to EF. Study III was a randomized controlled trial, allocating 140 patients, 70 years or older, with an unstable dorsally displaced DRF to VLP or non-operative treatment. At 12 months 119 patients were evaluated and PROMs, grip-strength, volar flexion and radiographs were significantly better for the VLP group. Complication rates were similar. In conclusion, surgical treatment regimens for DRFs vary widely among health care regions in Sweden and when comparing treatment outcomes; for elderly patients VLP fixation seems to yield superior clinical results compared with non-operative treatment, but for patients aged 50-74 years, VLP fixation does not seem to yield superior clinical results and does not seem to be cost-effective as compared with EF in a three-year perspective.

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