A wrist fracture is actually a fracture in one of the two bones present in the forearm close to the wrist and is a very common injury. It is particularly more common in patients over 60 years of age due to osteoporosis, a condition where the bone density decreases making it weak. It is believed that about one of every six fractures treated in an emergency room is a wrist fracture. A bone fracture in the radius of the forearm is known as Distal Radius Fracture.

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Distal Radius Fractures can be termed as follows:

  • Intra-Articular (Joint) Fracture: A fracture that extends into the wrist joint.
  • Extra-Articular Fracture: A fracture that does not extend into the joint.
  • Open Fracture: When a fractured bone breaks the skin, it is called an open fracture. These types of fractures require urgent medical attention because of the risk for infection.
  • Comminuted Fracture: When a bone is broken into more than two pieces, it is called a comminuted fracture.

A fracture is displaced when the fracture fragments are not properly aligned. It is important to classify the type of fracture, because it is a fact that some fractures are more difficult to treat than others. Intra-articular fractures, open fractures, comminuted fractures and displaced fractures are more difficult to treat. In some cases the other bone of the forearm, the ulna or the elbow bone is also broken. This is called a distal ulna fracture.

Causes for Distal Radius Fracture

The most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a fall onto an outstretched arm and it can happen even in healthy bones, if the force and the momentum of the fall are sufficient enough. Therefore, a car accident or a fall off a two-wheeler may generate enough force to break a wrist. In most cases a broken wrist immediately causes pain, tenderness, bruising, and swelling. In a big number of cases, the wrist hangs in an odd or bent way causing gross deformity.

Treatment Procedures

The treatment of broken bones follows just one fundamental principle and that is to put the broken pieces back into position and prevent them from moving out of place until they are healed through natural processes. There are several known treatment options for distal radius fracture which may either be through a surgical or a non-surgical mode. Choice of treatment also depends on several other factors line comminution, nature of the fracture, age of the patient, activities he/she most commonly indulges in and to a big extent upon the personal preference of the surgeon at hand.

Undisplaced fractures can be treated in a cast for about 4-6 weeks. Doctors usually recommend surgery when the fracture is displaced. Surgery is generally to realign the fracture and stabilise the fracture. This can be done using wires which are passed through the skin without a surgical incision.

Depending on the nature of the fracture, the doctor may recommend fixation using a plate and screws. After surgery patients will require a plaster splint for a few weeks. Wires are generally removed after 4-6 weeks. After the fracture has united, physical therapy is needed to help regain wrist movements.