What Surgical Technique to Perform for Isolated Ulnar Shortening Osteotomy After Distal Radius Malunion: A Systematic Review

Charlotte L. E. Laane, Koen D. Oude Nijhuis, Jonne Spil, Inger N. Sierevelt, Job N. Doornberg, Ruurd L. Jaarsma, Michael H.J. Verhofstad, Mathieu M.E. Wijffels

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Unstable fractures of the distal radius fractures (DRFs) may result in malunion, usually consisting of subsequent shortening and angular deviations. Ulnar shortening osteotomy (USO) is assumed to be a simpler procedure than radial correction osteotomy, resulting in fewer complications and comparable outcomes. The aim of this study was to identify the best surgical technique to perform USO to restore distal radioulnar joint congruency after DRF malunion. 

Methods: A systematic review of the literature is performed following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines in February 2022 to identify studies reporting outcomes and surgical technique for isolated USO. The primary outcome was complication rates. Secondary outcomes included functional, radiologic, and patient-rated outcomes. The methodological index for nonrandomized studies criteria were used to assess the quality of evidence. 

Results: Included were 12 cohorts (185 participants). Due to substantial heterogeneity, a meta-analysis could not be performed. The overall complication rate was 33% (95% confidence interval, 16% to 51%). The most reported complication was implant irritation (22%), often requiring removal of the implant (13%). Only 3% nonunions were mentioned. Functional and patient-rated outcomes improved in most patients after USO. Quality of evidence of the papers was low to very low. Common methodological flaws were related to retrospective research.

Conclusion: No evident differences in complication rates and functional outcomes between the surgical techniques were observed. Based on this literature, most complications are related to implant irritation. Nonunion and infection rates were rare. Therefore, a surgical technique with a buried implant might be preferred. This hypothesis requires further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Early online date16 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2023


  • distal radius malunion
  • surgical technique
  • ulnar shortening osteotomy


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