Complications After Open Reduction and Internal Fixation for Distal Radius Fractures in Patients With and Without Rheumatoid Arthritis

Grace X. Xiong, Nelson Merchan, Peter J. Ostergaard, Matthew J. Hall, Brandon E. Earp, Tamara D. Rozental*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can have severe impact on patients’ functional abilities and increase the risk of fragility fractures. Little is known about how patients with RA fare after operative management of distal radius fractures. The purpose of this study was to compare postoperative complications after surgical fixation in patients with RA and controls, hypothesizing that patients with RA would have higher levels of postoperative complications. Methods: Patients were identified using Current Procedural Terminology and International Classification of Diseases, Ninth and Tenth Revision, codes for open treatment of distal radius fractures and RA at 3 level 1 trauma centers over a 5-year period (2015–2019). Chart abstraction provided details regarding injuries and treatment. Age- and sex-matched controls were identified in a 2:1 ratio. Postoperative complications were classified according to the Clavien-Dindo-Sink classification system and divided into early (less than 90 days) and late groups. Results: Sixty-four patients (21 with RA and 43 controls) were included. The patients were predominantly women, with a mean age of 62 years and a mean Charlson comorbidity index of 2.1. The RA medications at the time of injury included conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (5/21), biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (5/21), or chronic oral prednisone (6/21). Rheumatoid medications, except hydroxychloroquine, were withheld for 2–3 weeks after surgery. Rheumatoid patients were significantly more likely to sustain a complication compared with the control group, although this was no longer significant on adjusted analysis. Class I complications were the most common. The incidence of early versus late complications was similar between the groups. A high rate of early return to surgery for fixation failure occurred in the RA group compared with none in the control group. Conclusions: Patients with RA undergoing operative management of distal radius fractures are at risk of postoperative complications, particularly fracture fixation failure, necessitating return to the operative room. High levels of pain, stiffness, and mechanical symptoms were noted in the RA group. Type of study/level of evidence: Prognostic IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490.e1-490.e8
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Distal radius fractures
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • surgical complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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