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Distal Radius Fracture

Distal Radius Fracture

What is a distal radius fracture?

It is a broken wrist. The forearm is made of two bones. The ulna and the radius. The radius is the larger bone, and the end of the wrist bone is called the distal. Wrist fractures commonly occur in young men and older women.

What can cause a wrist fracture?

The most common cause is falling on an outstretched arm. Trauma from a car accident, sports, or fall off a bike can break healthy bone. People over age 60 who fall on an outstretched hand often suffer a wrist fracture. Osteoporosis makes the bones fragile and more easily broken.

What are the symptoms of a wrist fracture?

  • Immediate pain
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Deformity

If the wrist is not very painful and is not deformed, it is ok to wait a day to see a doctor. Rest, ice, elevation and compression can help, along with over- the- counter pain medications.

How is a wrist fracture diagnosed?

Often the wrist is very painful and the patient heads to an urgent care center where a doctor examines the wrist and orders X-rays to confirm the diagnosis. X-rays will show the break, whether it is displaced (bones not in alignment), and the number of pieces of broken bone.

How is a wrist fracture treated?

Treatment is determined by your age, health and activity level and the severity of the break. It will involve immobilization with a cast for six weeks or surgery.

Most wrist fractures can be treated without surgery, if the bones are in alignment.  But if the bones are not lined up, they must be reduced or moved into the correct position for healing. This may be done without surgery or with surgery, anesthesia and a splint to hold the bones in place.

Once the bones are aligned a cast will be placed. Your surgeon will provide instructions on how to care for your cast, and surgical incisions if necessary; and how to treat your pain.

Recovery

When the caste is removed, the wrist will be stiff and you may need physical therapy. Recovery can take up to a year.