Distal Radius Fractures (Broken Wrist)
If you suffer from pain related to a broken wrist, don’t hesitate to Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.
What is a Distal Radius Fracture?
Fractures often occur in the largest of the bones in the forearm, known as the Radius. Doctors refer to the wrist-end of the radius as the distal end. A fracture in the distal radius happens when this area of the radius near the wrist fractures.
Physicians rank Distal radius fractures as a very common wrist injury, with the radius doubling as the most commonly broken bone in the arm. Patients with conditions such as Osteoporosis have a higher risk of all types of bone fracture, due to decreased bone density.
When a distal radius fracture occurs, it almost always breaks around an inch away from the bone’s end. However, the break line itself can fracture in several different directions.
What is a Colles Fracture?
Among Distal Radius Fractures, Colles fracture ranks as the most common variant. In a Colles Fracture, the broken piece of the radius tilts upwards.
Colles fractures almost always occur when patients suffer a fall and try to stop themselves with an outstretched hand. When attempting to stop a fall, oftentimes patients unknowingly redirect the force of the impact into the bones of the wrist, usually causing a break on the wrist-side of the radius. This fracture typically breaks about an inch away from the wrist end of the radius, and tilts the bone upward. The demographic most often affected by colles fractures include women over 60 and those with osteoporosis. Speak with your physician about how you can prevent osteoporosis.
Wearing protective gear while participating in activities prone to accidents and contact sports can drastically reduce your chances of a colles fracture. Make sure to always wear a wrist guard when skating, skiing, riding bicycles or playing sports like rugby and football.
Complications of a Broken Wrist
In a particularly severe wrist injury, various complications can arise. If you experience any of the following, contact our Hand and Wrist Specialists immediately:
- Stiffness, or inability to use the wrist even after treatment. While a broken wrist may still feel a little achy after surgery or casting, this feeling usually dissipates over time. If the wrist continues to feel stiff, painful and achy even after removing the cast, let your physician know and they will adjust treatment accordingly.
- Osteoarthritis. If the fracture itself extends into a joint space, that disruption can lead to osteophytes and arthritis, sometimes years down the line. Contact your physician if you start feeling pain in a wrist with a past injury..
- Nerve or blood vessel damage. In particularly intense fractures, the broken bones can injure the surrounding tissues, causing damage to blood vessels and nerves. Feelings of numbness and tingling could signal nerve damage.
Treatments for a Broken Wrist
If the bones have broken in such a way that they no longer properly align, your hand and wrist specialist will need to manually adjust the pieces back to their proper alignment. Patients will usually receive a local or general anesthetic before this procedure to keep them comfortable.
The first step in addressing a broken bone involves immobilization. By wrapping the bones in a splint or cast, the bones can heal undisturbed. Patients should also keep their injury elevated as much as possible to avoid swelling.
In addition to immobilization, patients can also take over the counter anti-inflammatory medication to manage their pain. In some cases, your physician can prescribe special medication if needed to manage extreme pain.
The physician will also prescribe an antibiotic if the fractured bones have broken the skin. Antibiotics will prevent infections from any surface contaminant that might exist on your skin or the air.
Even after the wrist heals and your physician removes your cast, they may still prescribe some visits to see a physical therapist. Physical therapists will work with patients to move and strengthen the wrist, ensuring that patients properly regain all of their flexibility.
Surgical and other procedures
Some severe wrist fractures may require surgery to properly reconstruct the joints. Orthopedic Hand and Wrist Specialists can insert pins, screws, and bone grafts to hold the bones in place. Your physician may recommend this kind of surgery if you have:
- An open fracture
- Loose bone fragments
- Tissue Damage to the nerves or blood vessels
- Fractures that extend into a joint