The results of the present study show that 63% of this population has a degree of pain at one year post FDR, 11% are in moderate to very severe pain. 95% of this population has a degree of disability one year post injury, with 16% being moderately to very severely disabled. Patients in moderate to very severe pain were more likely to require medication. Patients who were moderately to severely disabled were more likely to be older and non working.
It is surprising that such a large proportion of people are left with a degree of pain one year post fracture, with 11% of people being left with a degree of pain that could interfere with their life. Interestingly the percentage of subjects who have no pain (37%) is much greater than those who have no disability (5%). This would suggest that disability is a greater problem to these patients than pain.
The pain prevalence for subjects in this study very closely matched that of MacDermid et al (2003) . In their cohort study of 129 patients following FDR over one year, 11% of their sample had moderate to very severe pain one year post FDR and 32% had no pain. This suggests that levels of pain may be stable across different populations.
The VAS has been criticised as a measure of pain as it requires ability to understand the abstract concept of the VAS line and then relate it to distance from a zero mark. It also requires the use of a paper and pen which is of particular importance in the present study as 50% had injured their dominant hand . However, it has been shown to be a valid and reliable measurement of pain and has been agreed upon by the International Association for the Study of Pain as an appropriate measure of pain for clinical trials [10, 12].
Despite the potential influence of responder bias and inadequacies of the VAS as an outcome measure it is fair to conclude that this study highlights a small but important number of patients suffering moderate to very severe pain one year following a FDR. However, it is important to note that this study only takes a snap shot at one year post injury and if the participants had been followed for a longer period of time, further recovery may have occurred.
Nearly all patients reported some degree of disability, with 16% reporting moderate to very severe disability. It is possible that mild disability is a normal finding within this population and not related to the injury they have received. The only other study to investigate level of disability one year post fracture is MacDermid et al (2003), in their study only 46% of the sample presented with disability at one year post FDR and only 7% had moderate to very severe disability . This discrepancy may be due to the present study being influenced by responder bias as only 35% of patients contacted responded. Also MacDermid et al (2003) utilised the Patient Rated Wrist Evaluation (PRWE) which may not be as sensitive to disability as the DASH and, hence the level of disability may have been underestimated in their sample [8, 9, 13, 14]. The DASH has been shown to be one of the most valid and reliable measures of disability in the wrist and other joints of the upper extremity .
The DASH is applicable to all regions of the upper limb adding to its strength as a suitable measure. The results can be comparable to other studies of a similar nature involving other regions of the upper limb . This gives the DASH an advantage over other wrist disability measures such as the patient rated wrist evaluation (PRWE) which only measures disability of the wrist, meaning that future research into disability prevalence of other regions of the upper limb could not be compared. However, as the DASH concentrates on the disability of the upper limb it can be criticised for its lack of pain measurement hence the need for a visual analogue scale (VAS) alongside the DASH.
Despite the potential problems with responder bias the present study demonstrates that there are a small but important group of patients (16% of this sample) who are suffering moderate to very severe disability one year post injury. Similar distributions were seen when the data was analysed separately for males and females.
The present study showed that the main features that were significantly associated with moderate to very severe pain were the need for pain medication, probably as a consequence of poor outcome. The features associated with disability were being over the age of 65 years, working status and need for pain medication. Working status may be a confounder for age as older people are less likely to work.
The results of this study differ from MacDermid et al (2002) who also explored the associations between demographics and pain and disability in this patient group . In their research high levels of pain and disability were associated with claims for compensation, low education levels and radial shortening (a side effect of FDR), but they found no association with age. The disparity of the results between these two studies may be because the proportion of patients in the present study claiming compensation was only 7% (n = 7) compared to 14% (n = 17) in the MacDermid et al (2002) study. The present study did not explore patient's education level or any long term physical side effect of the injury (such as radial shortening). Radial shortening is another potential confounder associated with pain and disability . This study was unable to make associations between these due to inconsistencies in the medical documentation.
Smoking status has been found to be an association with musculoskeletal pain . The present study failed to show any association between smoking status and pain or disability. This may well be due to the small numbers of smokers within the present study in comparison to the Palmer et al (2003) study .
The response rate for completed questionnaires was 35% and there were significant differences between the responders and non-responders in terms of both sex and age. The low response rate could have lead to several bias' in this study, where the subjects may have only responded if they were actually having a problem with their injury one year post fracture. Some of the subjects may not actually have experienced fractures and 25% of the original sample was aged over 75 years of age. Questionnaires place a burden on vision, dexterity, memory and literacy . This may have meant that the elderly subjects had difficulty completing the questionnaire and were, therefore under-represented in this study.
On admission to A & E the patient is assigned a diagnosis code which is entered onto the Emergency Department Information System (EDIS). There is potential for error here as the patient is usually given a preliminary diagnosis in A & E, the formal diagnosis is then given at fracture clinic when the X-ray films have been reviewed by the consultant. 6% of patients who responded to the questionnaire were diagnosed as a FDR in A & E then were assigned a different diagnosis in fracture clinic. This means it is also possible that some patients who do have a FDR may have been entered into the system as having soft tissue injuries when in fact they actually have fractures. These patients will not have been located in this study as they will not have been picked up by the EDIS search. This means that the total population of FDR in this area, during that time period may not have been included in the study.
Examination of the medical records showed that different diagnostic descriptions were used for the radiographic films. Not all diagnosis complied with the AO classification system of intra and extra articular fracture classification as recommended by McRae and Esser (2002) . Some medical records did mention the presence or absence of an articular fracture but this was not consistent among all records. This is in keeping with research by Kreder et al (1996) which asked varying different clinicians to view 30 films of fracture of the distal radius . They also found differing levels of consistency in the diagnosis of the films. The importance of this discrepancy for patient management is that the type of fracture can determine the prognosis, as intra-capsular fractures are deemed to be more likely to have long term influences on the patient's recovery . The incomplete documentation also negated any further analysis of subgroups of patients within this study.
A further limitation of the present study was that it was only based on one area of the UK and therefore, it is difficult to make comparisons or generalisations to other areas of the UK. Further research could focus on surveying other regions of the UK to look for trends in prevalence.