Can we safely place the distal volar locking plate screws into the subchondral zone of a distal radius fracture using a 45° supination oblique view under fluoroscopic guidance?

Published:January 12, 2023DOI:



      Careful distal locking screw insertion into the subchondral zone is necessary to obtain proper mechanical strength of unstable distal radius fractures using volar locking plating. However, subchondral zone screw insertion increases the risk of intra-articular screw penetration, which may remain unrecognized during surgery due to complex distal radial anatomy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of fluoroscopic guidance with a 45° supination oblique view technique for placing distal screws into the subchondral zone during volar locking plating for unstable distal radius fractures and to explore the factors associated with poor screw placement.


      We retrospectively analyzed 171 wrists of 169 patients treated with variable-angle volar locking plates for unstable radius fractures. The subchondral zone was defined as the metaphyseal area within 4 mm of the articular margin of the distal radius. The location of the distal locking screws and radiographic parameters, including the teardrop angle, were measured using computed tomography scans and X-rays. Clinical and radiographic factors were examined to determine their possible associations with screw placement failure.


      Of 581 distal screws inserted, 559 screws (96.2%) were inserted into the subchondral zone and 17 screws into the metaphyseal zone (2.9%). Five screws (0.7%) in three wrists showed intra-articular placement: four screws were placed into the lunate fossa and one into the scaphoid fossa. These three wrists also exhibited significantly reduced teardrop angles. The distal screws were significantly closer to the joint line in the lunate fossa than the scaphoid fossa (1.9 ± 0.9 mm vs. 2.8 ± 1 mm, P < 0.000).


      The 45° supination oblique view technique is a useful fluoroscopic guiding technique for accurate and safe distal screw placement in the subchondral zone in volar locking plate fixation for distal radial fractures. However, a decreased teardrop angle or extended lunate fossa should be corrected before distal screw insertion to avoid intra-articular screw placement.


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