The purpose of this study was to determine whether the acute bone grafting of diaphyseal forearm fractures decreases the incidence of nonunion and reduces the time to union. Although the traditional treatment of comminuted radius and/or ulnar shaft fractures involves bone graft, a recent report called into question this practice.

A database search was used to identify all acute diaphyseal forearm fractures presenting to an urban Level I trauma center between 1988 and 1996. All radius and/or ulnar shaft fractures, as well as all Monteggia and Galeazzi fracture-dislocations, in patients with closed physes were included. The charts and operative reports were available for 64 diaphyseal forearm fractures in 49 patients. Fifty-six fractures were followed for at least 1 year beyond clinical and radiographic union. The injuries were treated with open reduction and plate fixation by experienced orthopedic traumatologists. All noncomminuted fractures were treated without bone graft. For the comminuted fractures, the decision to use bone graft was left to the discretion of the operating surgeon.

Overall, 55 of 56 fractures (98%) achieved union at a mean of 49 days (range, 19-123 days), with the only nonunion occurring in a patient with a closed, noncomminuted Galeazzi injury. Among the 20 noncomminuted fractures, all of which were treated without bone graft, 19 (95%) achieved union at a mean of 50 days (range, 19-102 days). Among the 36 comminuted fractures, all 25 treated without bone graft achieved fusion at an average of 50 days (range, 20-123 days) and all 11 treated with bone graft achieved union at an average of 45 days (range, 22-67 days). No statistically significant difference in the incidence of nonunion or time to union was noted between fractures that were treated with and without bone graft.

Acute bone grafting of diaphyseal forearm fractures did not affect the union rate or the time to union.

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