The use of Orthoplast cast-bracing to allow early hand function in the treatment of displaced Colles' fractures was investigated in 243 patients. They were randomly allocated into three groups: in the first a conventional Colles' type plaster was used; in the second an above-elbow cast-brace with the forearm in supination; and in the third a below-elbow cast-brace. Radiographic measurements were made at each stage of treatment, and the final anatomical result was scored using Sarmiento's (1975) criteria. Function was assessed at three months and at six months. The anatomical result was not influenced by the method of immobilisation but was related to the efficacy of reduction. Loss of position in the braces was no greater than in plaster. The functional result at three months also was uninfluenced by the method of immobilisation; it was, however, related to the severity of the initial displacement, and (to a lesser degree) to the anatomical result, an effect which was lost at six months. Early hand function and the supinated position advocated by Sarmiento were found to confer no anatomical or functional advantage; we could see no reason to change from the use of conventional plaster casts in the treatment of uncomplicated Colles' fractures.