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Biomechanical Assessment of the Dorsal Spanning Bridge Plate in Distal Radius Fracture Fixation: Implications for Immediate Weight-Bearing



The goal of this study was to compare the biomechanical stability of a 2.4-mm dorsal spanning bridge plate with a volar locking plate (VLP) in a distal radius fracture model, during simulated crutch weight-bearing.


Five paired cadaveric forearms were tested. A 1-cm dorsal wedge osteotomy was created to simulate an unstable distal radius fracture with dorsal comminution. Fractures were fixed with a VLP or a dorsal bridge plate (DBP). Specimens were mounted to a crutch handle, and optical motion-tracking sensors were attached to the proximal and distal segments. Specimens were loaded in compression at 1 mm/s on a servohydraulic test frame until failure, defined as 2 mm of gap site displacement.


The VLP construct was significantly more stable to axial load in a crutch weight-bearing model compared with the DBP plate (VLP: 493 N vs DBP: 332 N). Stiffness was higher in the VLP constructs, but this was not statistically significant (VLP: 51.4 N/mm vs DBP: 32.4 N/mm). With the crutch weight-bearing model, DBP failed consistently with wrist flexion and plate bending, whereas VLP failed with axial compression at the fracture site and dorsal collapse.


Dorsal spanning bridge plating is effective as an internal spanning fixator in treating highly comminuted intra-articular distal radius fracture and prevents axial collapse at the radiocarpal joint. However, bridge plating may not offer advantages in early weight-bearing or transfer in polytrauma patients, with less axial stability in our crutch weight-bearing model compared with volar plating. A stiffer 3.5-mm DBP or use of a DBP construct without the central holes may be considered for distal radius fractures if the goal is early crutch weight-bearing through the injured extremity.

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