A distal radius fracture, sometimes called a “broken wrist,” is a common wrist injury. This type of fracture can occur from a variety of trauma, such as a fall at home or a motor vehicle collision. The distal radius is the portion of the radius bone just below the wrist joint. As we age, the bone of the distal radius loses bone mass and becomes more prone to fracture, particularly in post-menopausal women and people with osteoporosis. The distal radius may break (also called a fracture) as a result of a slip and fall in these cases. Younger patients with stronger bones may break the distal radius after high-energy trauma, such as a sports injury or car accident. Broken wrist treatment involves specialized orthopedic care, and proper healing is needed to obtain the best outcome.
Broken wrist treatment depends on the severity of the fracture on the x-rays and the patient’s health and activity level. The distal radius bone usually heals after a fracture; however, a goal of treatment is for the bone to heal in a good position for function. Many people have fractures which are in good alignment. These patients do not require surgery. Treatment in these cases is typically protection in a cast or brace for several weeks. Follow-up x-rays are obtained in clinic to see how the fracture is healing. Waterproof casts are available at the Raleigh Hand to Shoulder Center.
Some patients have displaced fractures which can be re-aligned without surgery. This is called “closed reduction” and is performed either in the office or emergency room using an injection of a local anesthetic. After the broken bones are “set,” a plaster splint is molded to the wrist to maintain the alignment. After a few days, the patient can often be placed into a cast.
Some patients have fractures which are more severe. In these case the fracture alignment is not in good position for hand function. Surgery may be advised to improve the alignment of the bones. Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF) is a common procedure performed for this injury.
Raleigh Hand to Shoulder Center doctors are all hand specialists and they are members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Broken wrist treatment is one of the many services provided by hand specialists.