Distal Radius Fracture Repair with Volar Plate
The wrist is one of the most used parts of the body. The bones that make up the wrist connect to the ulnar bone and the radius bone of the arm. These bones are frequently broken in injuries because people tend to put their arms out to break their fall. A common break is the distal radius fracture. This is the radius bone breaking on the distal end, which is located by the wrist. This can sometimes need repair through surgery.
When does a Distal Radius Fracture need surgical repair?
The most common break of the radius is about one inch below the wrist. This break can be different depending on the way a person becomes injured, but they can range from a cracked bone to a complete break. These bones can be difficult to completely stabilize because they are located in such a commonly used area. Sometimes the doctor will recommend a plate be placed so that the bones can heal and set in the best position possible.
Basics of Distal Radius Fracture Repair with Volar Plate
This is a relatively simple procedure. Most hand and wrist surgeries are considered minimally invasive and come with less risks. First, the wrist is sterilized and the patient is placed under local anesthetic. The surgeon makes an incision on the palm side of the wrist, which is over the radius. They then realign the bone to ensure it heals correctly. A specially formed plate is placed over the bones and screwed into place. This plate will hold the bones together indefinitely, but will make sure they heal in the correct alignment. Then the surgeon will close the wound with sutures and place the arm in a splint.
Recovery for Distal Radius Fracture Repair
After the operation is complete, most patients can return home that day. The arm may be placed in a hard cast once the swelling has gone down from surgery, depending on the severity of the injury. The actual recovery time after the surgery can vary as well, but it generally takes about two months for the cast to be removed and for the patient to return to almost normal activity level. Most people experience full healing after about one year. Each patient will most likely need to also do some physical therapy. Physical therapy is so incredibly helpful with healing and experiencing more lifelong benefits. Younger patients usually do not need as much physical therapy, while older patients may need more to regain mobility.
Pros and Cons
When a person’s arm is casted rather than surgically repaired, many people experience a faster overall healing time. There is a much lower chance of infection from surgery, and absolutely no chance of problems with anesthesia or any other surgical concerns. However, casts need to be removed and replaced multiple times, and they are bulky and uncomfortable. They also may not be able to align the more serious breaks. With fracture repair, most patients only have to wear a sling and a light cast. The bones are much more stable in the future, and the patient can have earlier use of the hand. There are pros and cons to either method, so each patient should make sure to review each option with their doctor. There is also a method where the wrist bones are externally pinned into place, which is also effective in many situations.
Breaking a wrist is not a pleasant experience, and it can be a difficult healing process. Distal radial fracture repair with a volar plate has a great lifetime recovery rate. Although it is more invasive at the start, most patients experience better healing, more mobility, and a much lower risk of their bone healing incorrectly. This is an effective and helpful procedure for most situations.