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OBJECTIVE: To assess wrist function, quality of life, and complications in adult patients with a dorsally displaced fracture of the distal radius, treated with either a moulded cast or surgical fixation with K-wires. DESIGN: Multicentre randomised clinical superiority trial, SETTING: 36 hospitals in the UK National Health Service (NHS). PARTICIPANTS: 500 adults aged 16 or over with a dorsally displaced fracture of the distal radius, randomised after manipulation of their fracture (255 to moulded cast; 245 to surgical fixation). INTERVENTIONS: Manipulation and moulded cast was compared with manipulation and surgical fixation with K-wires plus cast. Details of the application of the cast and the insertion of the K-wires were at the discretion of the treating surgeon, according to their normal clinical practice. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was the Patient Rated Wrist Evaluation (PRWE) score at 12 months (five questions about pain and 10 about function and disability; overall score out of 100 (best score=0 and worst score=100)). Secondary outcomes were PRWE score at three and six months, quality of life, and complications, including the need for surgery due to loss of fracture position in the first six weeks. RESULTS: The mean age of participants was 60 years and 417 (83%) were women; 395 (79%) completed follow-up. No statistically significant difference in the PRWE score was seen at 12 months (cast group (n=200), mean 21.2 (SD 23.1); K-wire group (n=195), mean 20.7 (22.3); adjusted mean difference -0.34 (95% confidence interval -4.33 to 3.66), P=0.87). No difference was seen at earlier time points. In the cast group, 33 (13%) of participants needed surgical fixation for loss of fracture position in the first six weeks compared with one revision surgery in the K-wire group (odds ratio 0.02, 95% confidence interval 0.001 to 0.10). CONCLUSIONS: Among patients with a dorsally displaced distal radius fracture that needed manipulation, surgical fixation with K-wires did not improve patients' wrist function at 12 months compared with a cast. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN registry ISRCTN11980540.

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Adolescent, Adult, Bone Wires, Casts, Surgical, Female, Fracture Fixation, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Radius Fractures, Treatment Outcome, United Kingdom, Wrist Joint, Young Adult