Distal Radius Fracture

What Is Distal Radius Fracture?

Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

A distal radius fracture, commonly referred to as a “broken wrist,” occurs in the larger of the two forearm bones, typically about 1 inch from its end near the thumb’s connection to the hand bones. In the United States, distal radius fractures make up around 70 percent of all forearm fractures and can result from various causes, including falling on an extended hand to break a fall or experiencing a sports-related injury. Additionally, individuals in the elderly population or those with osteoporosis are at greater risk due to bone fragility.

Signs of a Distal Radius Fracture

Distal radius fractures can be categorized as intra-articular (extending into the wrist joint) or extra-articular (not involving the wrist joint). Treating intra-articular fractures can be more complex. Common symptoms of a distal radius fracture include:

  • Immediate pain, especially during wrist flexion
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Wrist appearing crooked or bent

To confirm a distal radius fracture diagnosis, a physical examination is conducted, and X-rays are taken to assess the severity and exact location of the break.

Treatment for a Distal Radius Fracture

The choice of treatment for a distal radius fracture depends on its severity. In cases where the bones are well-aligned, a plaster cast may be sufficient. If there’s misalignment, the bones must be realigned, either manually by a doctor or during surgery. Regardless, a splint is worn initially until swelling subsides, after which a plaster cast is applied. Typically, the cast is removed within 6 weeks, followed by prescribed physical therapy to enhance wrist strength and mobility.Surgery becomes necessary when a distal radius fracture cannot be adequately addressed with casting alone. Surgical procedures involve aligning the bones and stabilizing them with plates, screws, metal pins, an external stabilizer, or a combination of these methods. A cast may also be used post-surgery, remaining in place for approximately 6 weeks. In cases of open distal radius fractures, where the bone breaks through the skin, immediate surgery (within 8 hours) is required. Following the healing process, physical therapy is essential for both closed and open fractures to restore optimal wrist function.

At City Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we specialize in diagnosing and treating distal radius fractures and a wide range of orthopedic conditions. Contact us today for personalized care focused on your comfort and well-being, ensuring a successful recovery from a distal radius fracture.

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