The objective of this prospective, randomized, controlled trial was to compare the results of two operative techniques used for the treatment of unstable distal radius fractures in elderly patients classified as AO types A2, A3, and C1. Patients were treated with either fixed-angle volar plates or K-wires using a combined Kapandji and Willenegger technique. The functional results were determined after 3, 6, and 12 months. We included 40 patients aged over 65 years. Twenty-one patients were treated with plate fixation and 19 with K-wire fixation. The functional results, after 1 year, were nearly the same in both treatment groups, suggesting that either method is suitable for the treatment of unstable distal radius fractures of AO types A2, A3, and C1 in elderly patients. Sixteen of 21 patients with plate fixation and 17 of 19 patients with K-wire fixation present good results as assessed by the Castaing score. The median DASH score was three in both groups after 1 year. The patients with plate fixation were able to resume activities of daily living 4 weeks earlier. The most common complication was an intermediate post-traumatic median nerve irritation. Both methods are suitable for the treatment of elderly patients with unstable distal radius fractures of AO types A2, A3, and C1. If early functional post-operative care is important, palmar fixed-angle plate fixation is an ideal treatment approach. Otherwise, K-wire fixation is an effective, minimally invasive method with comparable clinical results.
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