Treatment of radius or ulna fractures in the elderly: A systematic review covering effectiveness, safety, economic aspects and current practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background The objective of the present study was to evaluate effectiveness, complications and cost-effectiveness of any surgical or non-surgical treatment for radius or ulna fractures in elderly patients. Secondary objectives were to analyze present treatment traditions of distal radius fractures (DRF) in Sweden and to calculate resource usage for its treatment. Methods and findings The assessment contains a systematic review of clinical and health economic studies comparing treatment options for radius or ulna fractures. The results regarding the effectiveness of the treatments are summarized in meta-analyses. In addition, the assessment contains a cost analysis for different treatment options commonly used for DRF care, and an analysis of registry data on the incidence and treatment of DRF. In total 31 randomized controlled trials were included in meta-analyses. When comparing functional outcome for plate fixation versus non-surgical treatment for DRF, there were no clinically important differences at one-year follow-up (mean difference [MD], -3.29, 95% CI, -7.03; 0.44). Similar results were found when comparing plating and percutaneous methods with respect to functional outcome (standardized mean difference [SMD], -0.07, 95% CI, -0.21; 0.07) and grip strength (MD, -3.47, 95% CI, -11.21; 4.28). There were no differences for minor complications, (risk difference [RD], -0.01, 95% CI, -0.07; 0.05) whereas major complications were less common for the percutaneous group, (RD, 0.02, 95% CI, 0.02; 0.03). Given the low number of studies, the evidence above was rated as moderate certainty. The cost for plate fixation versus plaster cast was estimated to 1698 compared to 137 US dollars. For DRF, plate fixation increased in Sweden between 2005 and 2013, and was the most common surgical method in 2013. Conclusions Surgical treatment of moderately displaced distal radius fractures in elderly patients offers no clear benefit compared to non-surgical treatment. Plating procedures have become more common during the second millennium and involve higher costs and higher risk of major complications than percutaneous options.


  • Cecilia Mellstrand Navarro
  • Agneta Brolund
  • Carl Ekholm
  • Emelie Heintz
  • Emin Hoxha Ekström
  • Per Olof Josefsson
  • Lina Leander
  • Peter Nordström
  • Lena Zidén
  • Karin Stenström
External organisations
  • Sahlgrenska University Hospital
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Umeå University
  • University of Gothenburg
  • Södersjukhuset
  • Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Orthopedics
  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0214362
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes