Recovery of grip strength and hand dexterity after distal radius fracture: A two-year prospective cohort study
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© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. Introduction: Clinicians often evaluate deficits after an injury by comparing the injured and uninjured side. It is important to understand what deficits occur in hand function after distal radius fracture, how they change over time and their clinical relevance. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the differences in grip strength and hand dexterity between the injured and uninjured hands of patients two years following distal radius fracture. Methods: Patients with distal radius fracture were recruited in a specialized hand clinic. Grip strength and hand dexterity were examined bilaterally with a Jamar hand-held dynamometer and with the NK dexterity device at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months’ post-injury respectively. Generalized linear modeling was performed, with age and sex as covariates to assess changes over time, and between sides. Results: Patients (n = 154) exhibited mean differences of grip strength between injured and uninjured side at 3 months’ (12.09 kg) and 6 months’ (7.47 kg) follow-up. The associated deficit standardized response means (SRM) were 1.30 and 0.73, respectively. At 2-years follow-up the mean deficit on the injured side was 2.30 kg with SRM = 0.22. One hundred and eleven patients who completed dexterity testing demonstrated small to trivial side to side differences across all time points. Conclusions: There were clinically important differences in grip strength between the injured and uninjured hands in patients with a distal radius fracture at 3 and 6 months’ follow-up. However, at 12 and 24 months, grip strength differences were small and of uncertain clinical importance. Trivial to small differences in hand dexterity can be expected between the injured and uninjured hand by 2 years after distal radius fracture.