J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 16, No 11, November 2008 Asif M. Ilyas, MD and Chaitanya S. Mudgal, MD
Radiocarpal fracture-dislocations most often are caused by high-energy trauma. These difficult, uncommon injuries involve significant soft-tissue and osseous trauma, requiring meticulous reduction and fixation. The mechanism of injury is generally a severe shear or rotational insult. Anatomically, the dislocation results in disruption of the radiocarpal ligaments and, usually, both the radial and the ulnar styloid. Understanding the anatomy of the radiocarpal joint is central to understanding the osseous and soft-tissue constraints that are disrupted with a radiocarpal dislocation. Diagnosis can be reliably made on physical examination and radiographic evaluation. Radiocarpal fracture-dislocation injuries must be differentiated from Barton fractures. Associated injuries such as open fractures, neurovascular involvement, and distal radioulnar dislocations also must be taken into account. Closed reduction can be obtained relatively easily, but open reduction and internal fixation is typically necessary to ensure accurate anatomic restoration of injured bone and ligaments.