Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

More commonly known as a broken wrist, a distal radius fracture occurs when a person’s wrist bends too far backward or forward. These fractures are one of the most common bones that people break each year. This type of injury often happens when a person falls down. Though sports activities and external trauma can also cause a distal radius fracture.


What Causes a Distal Radius Fracture?

The radius is a bone in the forearm that connects to the wrist near the thumb. That connection at the wrist is referred to medically as the distal radius. Depending on how the wrist breaks, there are two major types of distal radius fractures:

  • Colles Fractures — This type of fracture occurs during wrist extension, if the joint bends too far backward. Colles fractures typically produce a protrusion at the wrist, due to the broken part of the distal radius pushing up.
  • Smith Fractures — This type of fracture occurs during wrist flexion, if the joint bends too far forward. Smith fractures typically produce a drop at the wrist, due to the broken part of the distal radius pushing down. 

In certain cases, a distal radius fracture happens on an isolated basis, without other bones breaking. In other cases, however, there can also be a fracture of the distal ulna, which is the other forearm bone that connects to the wrist near the little finger. When both of the forearm bones break, it is referred to as a distal radius and ulna fracture.


What Symptoms does a Distal Radius Fracture Produce?

Patients who break their wrist and sustain a distal radius fracture can experience any or all the following symptoms:

  • Pain and discomfort, particularly when touching or moving the wrist;
  • Swelling, inflammation, and bruising around the wrist;
  • Inability to flex or extend the wrist;
  • Reduced strength or range of motion in the wrist; or
  • Improper wrist position, whether protruding or dropping. 

How Can a Doctor Treat a Distal Radius Fracture?

Before attempting to treat a distal radius fracture, a doctor must first diagnose the injury in question. The use of X-rays or other imaging tests is highly useful in this context, enabling a doctor to see the broken bone in great detail. 

After diagnosing a distal radius fracture, treatment usually follows a similar procedure:

  • Reset broken bones, placing them into proper position;
  • Remove any fragments or shards of broken bone; and
  • Immobilize the injured joint to enable proper healing and recovery. 

For relatively minor distal radius fractures, treatment does not typically involve surgery. But for more severe distal radius fractures, surgical intervention may be necessary to resolve the problem and install plates or screws to keep the joint in position.


Do You Need Treatment for a Distal Radius Fracture?

If you sustained a broken wrist and are suffering from a distal radius fracture, it can be immensely productive to schedule an appointment with an experienced orthopaedic physician. At the Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside, our physicians are board-certified with demonstrated credentials in the field of orthopaedic medicine. If you have a distal radius fracture or similar injury, please do not hesitate to contact us today!


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