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Dorsal Bridge Plate

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Evolution of Dorsal Bridge Plate

“Internal” distraction fixators (dorsal bridge plates) were originally designed in an effort to mitigate the pitfalls of external fixators. These function to the same extent as external fixators, utilizing traction and ligamentotaxis (applying a longitudinal force to ligaments which then helps to pull the bone they are attached to into the right place) for restoration of the articular surface of the joint.

Securing the plate after traction/distraction allows for restoration of the 3 critical goals of fixing distal radius fractures: restoring radial length, radial inclination and volar tilt (inclination and tilt are anatomical components of the articular surface of the distal radius). While an external fixator functions in a similar kinematic way in order to accomplish the above, there are notable advantages that the dorsal bridge plate has demonstrated in patient studies.

These include improved patient comfort and superior patient outcomes, no risk of pin track infection, and greater biomechanical stability that allows earlier weight bearing. This is particularly important for patients with concomitant lower extremity injuries. Studies have also suggested there is a decreased risk of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) with the use of dorsal bridge plates.

The major drawback of using a dorsal bridge plate is that a secondary surgery is required in order to remove the plate (although external fixator removal may need to be done in the operating room as well, as removal in a clinical setting can cause significant patient discomfort). Compared to external fixators, there is a risk of tendon entrapment during placement of a dorsal bridge plate. This can lead to tendonitis and eventually rupture. This risk can be minimized by securing the plate to the second metacarpal rather than the third, but this is not always possible.

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