What is a distal radius fracture?
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, ranging from a fall at home to a major 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 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. Young kids may also break their wrists after a fall from a bike, scooter or monkey bar typically in the distal radius bone near the growth plate.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture as noted on the x-rays and the patient’s health, activity level, and desires. Many people have fractures which are well-aligned, and, therefore, 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 evaluate how the fracture is healing. Most pediatric patients with distal radius fractures heal well with treatment in a cast.
Some patients have displaced fractures which can be re-aligned without surgery and placed into a splint. 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 and forearm to maintain the alignment. After a few weeks, the patient can often be placed into a lighter cast or custom splint. Waterproof casts are available at the Raleigh Hand Center.
Some patients have fractures which are more severe and the alignment of the fracture is not satisfactory. Surgery may be advised to improve the alignment of the bones. During surgery, the surgeon improves the fracture alignment and places an implant to stabilize the fracture.
Raleigh Hand Center treats patients with wrist fractures from the NC Triangle area including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Garner, Wake Forest including patients from Eastern North Carolina.