INTRODUCTION: The way strength recovers after reduction of pediatric fractures of the upper extremity has not previously been the specific scope of research. This is remarkable, since strength measurements are often used as an outcome measure in studies on trauma of the upper extremity. The aim of this study was to evaluate how strength recovers after sustainment of fractures of the forearm, wrist or hand treated by closed or open reduction in children and adolescents in the first 6 months after trauma. How much strength is lost at 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months after trauma, and is this loss significant? Are there differences in the pattern of recovery between children who underwent a different treatment? And finally, which of the following factors are associated with an increase in the ratio between affected grip strength and expected strength: type of fracture, cast immobilization, occurrence of complications, and degree of pain?
DESIGN: Prospective observational study.
PARTICIPANTS: Children and adolescents aged 4-18 years with a reduced fracture of the forearm, wrist or hand.
METHODS: Grip strength, key grip and three-jaw chuck grip were measured twice in each hand 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months after trauma. Details on fracture type and location, treatment received, cast immobilization and complications were obtained. Hand-dominance and pain were verbally confirmed.
RESULTS: Loss of strength was more prominent and prolonged the more invasive the treatment, hence most extensive in the group receiving open reduction with internal fixation (ORIF), intermediate in the group receiving closed reduction with percutaneous pinning (CRIF), and least extensive in the group undergoing closed reduction without internal fixation (CR). Besides time passed, gender and age were of significant influence on strength, although there was no difference in pattern of recovery over time between children who received a different treatment. In the period of 6 weeks to 3 months after trauma, female gender, type of fracture sustained and occurrence of an unwanted event were associated with an increased ratio between affected and expected grip strength. For the later phase of recovery, between 3 and 6 months, this was only true for the occurrence of an unwanted event.