Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ®

A Publication of The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons ®

Teaching the Basics: Development and Validation of a Distal Radius Reduction and Casting Model

Mark A. Seeley MD, Peter D. Fabricant MD, MPH, J. Todd R. Lawrence MD, PhD



Approximately one-third of reduced pediatric distal radius fractures redisplace, resulting in further treatment. Two major modifiable risk factors for loss of reduction are reduction adequacy and cast quality. Closed reduction and immobilization of distal radius fractures is an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education residency milestone. Teaching and assessing competency could be improved with a life-like simulation training tool.


Our goal was to develop and validate a realistic distal radius fracture reduction and casting simulator as determined by (1) a questionnaire regarding the “realism” of the model and (2) the quantitative assessments of reduction time, residual angulation, and displacement.


A distal radius fracture model was created with radiopaque bony segments and articulating elbows and shoulders. Simulated periosteum and internal deforming forces required proper reduction and casting techniques to achieve and maintain reduction. The forces required were estimated through an iterative process through feedback from experienced clinicians. Embedded monofilaments allowed for quantitative assessment of residual displacement and angulation through the use of fluoroscopy. Subjects were asked to perform closed reduction and apply a long arm fiberglass cast. Primary performance variables assessed included reduction time, residual angulation, and displacement. Secondary performance variables consisted of number of fluoroscopic images, casting time, and cast index (defined as the ratio of the internal width of the forearm cast in the sagittal plane to the internal width in the coronal plane at the fracture site). Subject grading was performed by two blinded reviewers. Interrater reliability was nearly perfect across all measurements (intraclass correlation coefficient range, 0.94–0.99), thus disagreements in measurements were handled by averaging the assessed values. After completion the participants answered a Likert-based questionnaire regarding the realism of simulation. Eighteen participants consented to participate in the study (eight attending pediatric orthopaedic surgeons, six junior residents, four senior residents). The performances of junior residents (Postgraduate Year [PGY] 1–2), senior residents (PGY 3–5), and attending surgeons were compared using one-way ANOVA with Tukey’s-adjusted pairwise comparisons.


The majority of participants (15 of 18) felt that the model looked, felt, and moved like a human forearm. All participants strongly agreed that the model taught the basic steps of fracture reduction and should be implemented in orthopaedic training. Attending surgeons reduced fractures in less time than junior residents (60 ± 27 seconds versus 460 ± 62 seconds; mean difference, 400 seconds; 95% CI, 335–465 seconds; p < 0.001). Residual angulation was greater for junior residents when compared with attending surgeons on AP (7° ± 5° versus 0.7° ± 0.9°; mean difference, 6.3°; 95% CI, 3°–11°; p = 0.003) and lateral (27° ± 7° versus 7° ± 5°; mean difference, 20°; 95% CI, 13°–27°; p = 0.001) radiographs. Similarly, residual displacement was greater for junior residents than either senior residents (mean difference, 16 mm; 95% CI, 2–34 mm; p = 0.05) or attending surgeons (mean difference, 15 mm; 95% CI, 3–27 mm; p = 0.02) on lateral images. There were no differences identified in secondary performance variables (number of fluoroscopic images, casting time, and cast index) between groups.


This is the first distal radius fracture reduction model to incorporate an elbow and shoulder and allow quantitative assessment of the fracture reduction. This simulator may be useful in an orthopaedic resident training program to help them reach a defined minimum level of competency. This simulator also could easily be integrated in other accreditation and training programs, including emergency medicine.

Level of Evidence

Level II, therapeutic study.

Back to top