What is a Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)?
A Broken Wrist is a fracture of any one of the bones that comprise the wrist. The wrist is made of 10 bones. These include all of the carpal bones, which are the small bones that join the forearm to the rest of the hand and provide the wrist with a good deal of mobility. Also, bones of the wrist are considered to be the distal (further away from the body) forearm bones, the radius and ulna. While a Broken Wrist can be a break of any of these bones, by far the most common site of break is at the distal radius bone. A Distal Radius Fracture can present in many forms, and will guide the strategy of treatment that is decided on in order for healing and recovery to take place. A Broken bone can be displaced or nondisplaced, which will determine if the fracture is stable or unstable. Fractures may be even more severe and cause the bone to break in multiple places and essentially splinter the bone. The two most common types of Distal Radius fractures are categorized by the angle of the break. These are:
- Colles Fracture: A Colles Fracture will be the direct result of falling straight onto the palm causing a FOOSH injury (Fall On Outstretched Hand). In this type of fracture, the part of the radius that broke is tilted upwards toward the backside of the hand
- Smith Fracture: less common than a Colles Fracture, a Smith fracture break is in the opposite direction, with the broken fragment directed the other way, towards the palm.
What Causes a Wrist Fracture?
The most common cause of a resulting Broken Wrist injury is a fall onto the hand. Some other causes and risk factors that can weaken bones and make you more susceptible to a Wrist Fracture are:
- Trauma from a car accident
- Trauma from a sports-related injury
- Increased age
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Symptoms of a Broken Wrist
The symptoms of a Distal Radius Fracture or break of another bone in the wrist may be:
- Immediate, significant pain
- Possible visible physical deformity of the wrist
- Loss of range of motion when attempting to move the wrist
- A sensation of “pins and needles” in the fingers is nerves were damaged
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Broken Wrist Treatments
A break in the bone can only be accurately diagnosed through an X-ray. An MRI of the wrist may also be ordered in order to determine any involvement of surrounding soft tissue structures. The treatment strategy will be determined on the type and extent of fracture, so an immediate, accurate diagnosis is essential. Intervention methods are:
- Immobilization of the area as soon as possible after the injury has occurred. If the bone was displaced, it will need to be reset before immobilization. Resetting of bone may or may not require surgery.
- If surgery is required, it is possible that pins, screws, rods, or plates will need to be implanted into the wrist joint in order to hold the bones in place
- After enough time has passed and your surgeon is convinced that enough healing has taken place, a course of physical or occupational therapy will be ordered in order to restore strength, range of motion, and function