The wrist joint consists of eight small carpal bones in the hand that connect to the radius and ulna bones in the forearm. This joint allows for extensive movement and manipulation of the hand. The wrist is often injured if you fall onto an outstretched hand or put your hand behind you when falling backward. The radius, the larger of the two bones in the forearm, is most commonly fractured near the area where it meets the wrist. Many different types of radius fractures can occur.
A patient with a distal radius fracture will generally present with a history of trauma, pain in the wrist, swelling, and inability to move the wrist or bear weight on the hand. If a fracture is more severe they may have a visible deformity or the wrist may appear crooked. If you have any or all of these symptoms, you should be seen by an orthopedic doctor for evaluation.
Our doctors will examine your wrist and order an x-ray to determine the location and severity of your fracture. Sometimes a CT scan will be necessary to evaluate a complex fracture. Some nondisplaced fractures can be treated with a splint or a cast. Nondisplaced means that there is a visible fracture, but the alignment of the radius is unchanged. The fracture will be followed by serial x-rays to ensure there is no displacement or movement of the fracture site.These fractures will generally heal with 4 weeks of immobilization. At that point, if there is adequate healing and no tenderness over the fracture site, you can begin gentle wrist range of motion and return to activities gradually. Physical therapy is sometimes required as a part of you rehabilitation, although our doctors will determine if they think it is necessary.
A displaced distal radius fracture may need to be treated with closed reduction and splinting. This involves administering numbing medication into the wrist and manually moving the bones back into proper alignment. The fracture is then held in place with a splint. A sugar tong splint will often be used to ensure there is no motion at the fracture site. This splint starts at the hand and goes up and over the elbow.
If you have any or all of these symptoms, you should be seen by an orthopedic doctor for evaluation.
Our doctors will examine your wrist and order an x-ray to determine the location and severity of your fracture. Sometimes a CT scan will be necessary to evaluate a complex fracture.
These fractures are followed very closely and may need to be monitored weekly, in the beginning, to make sure things are staying well aligned. Your doctor will determine when you have sufficient healing and can discontinue wearing the cast. Healing depends on several factors including age, fracture type, and severity, but most patients will be immobilized for 4-6 weeks.
Surgery is often needed for distal radius fractures that involve the joint, are in multiple pieces, or are unstable. Your doctor will order necessary imaging prior to surgery to ensure they understand the fracture pattern and are prepared to fix your fracture. Your fracture will likely be fixed with a plate and screws that sit on the bone and hold the fracture in place.
This allows your bone to heal in the proper position so that you are less likely to have issues with motion and strength in the future. The hardware will generally stay in the wrist for the patient’s lifetime. On occasion, a patient may be bothered by the hardware in which case it can be removed with a subsequent surgery once the bone is completely healed. After surgery, you will be placed in a splint and follow up in our office in 1-2 weeks. At that point, new x-rays will be taken and the splint will likely be removed. Your doctor may place you in a removable brace and instruct you to start gentle range of motion, depending on your progress. Physical therapy is generally a part of your recovery. You will start with simple range of motion exercises and progress to strengthening when prescribed by your doctor.
Distal radius fractures can cause serious setbacks for patients of all ages. Our goal at Modern Orthopaedics is for you to return to the things you love! This may take time and patience, but we want you to experience a full recovery. We understand that every patient is unique and we will develop your treatment plans accordingly. We want to understand your goals and help you reach them. Please contact our office with any wrist issues and receive superior care from our doctors and staff.
As our patient, you will have an in-depth consultation with one of our doctors. We will create an individualized treatment plan together, tailored to your problem and lifestyle. Our doctors prefer non-invasive treatments whenever possible, including physical therapy and/or injections. If your problem ultimately does require surgery, our doctors prefer the least invasive surgical techniques possible. Our goals are the same as yours: to get you back to living your best life, pain free.