Twenty-two patients with unstable Frykman grade 7 or 8 intra-articular fractures of the distal radius were treated with an external fixator. The distal pins were inserted into the distal radial fracture fragments, permitting movement of the wrist and hand. Eleven patients were male and 11 female, with a mean age of 50 years. All patients had regained full function with good range of motion at mean final follow-up of 12 months. However function, pain and range of motion had returned to acceptable levels 4 weeks after removal of the external fixator. This method of external fixation provides a reliable method of maintaining fracture reduction whilst allowing early return of function.