A distal radius fracture occurs when the area of the radius near the wrist breaks. The radius is the larger of the two bones in the forearm, and the term “distal” refers to the part of the radius bone closest to the wrist. Distal radius fractures are common fractures. In fact, the radius is the most commonly broken bone in the arm.
A distal radius fracture almost always occurs about one inch from the end of the radius bone, but the bone can break in numerous ways. One of the most common distal radius fractures is a Colles fracture. A Colles fracture occurs when the broken fragment of the radius tilts upwards. Other ways the distal radius can break include:
- Comminuted fracture: is when the bone is broken into more than two pieces
- Extra-articular fracture: is when the fracture does not extend into the joint
- Intra-articular fracture: occurs when the fracture extends into the wrist joint
- Open fracture: occurs when a fractured bone breaks the skin, and requires immediate medical attention
Some fractures are more difficult to treat than others. Intra-articular fractures, open fractures, comminuted fractures, and displaced fractures (when broken pieces of bone do not line up straight) are more difficult to treat.
CAUSES OF A DISTAL RADIUS FRACTURE
The most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a fall onto an outstretched arm, or any other forceful trauma from an impact or accident.
SYMPTOMS OF A DISTAL RADIUS FRACTURE
A broken wrist usually causes immediate pain, tenderness, bruising, and swelling. In some cases there may be an obvious deformity to the arm or wrist.
DIAGNOSING A DISTAL RADIUS FRACTURE
To confirm the diagnosis, the physician will order x-rays of the wrist. X-rays allow the physician to see if the bone is broken, if there are pieces of broken bone, and whether there is displacement (a gap between broken bones).
TREATMENT FOR A DISTAL RADIUS FRACTURE
Treatment for broken bones follows one basic rule: broken pieces must be put back into position and prevent from moving until they have healed. There are numerous treatment options for a broken wrist. Factors such as the severity of the break, age, activity level, and physician recommendation help determine the appropriate course of action for treating the injury.If the broken bones are in good position, a cast is applied to the wrist until the bone heals.
If the broken bones are out of position, it may be necessary for the physician to re-align the broken bone fragments. This procedure is called “reduction.” When the bone is straightened without having to open the skin, it is called a “closed reduction.” Once the bones are aligned properly, a splint or cast will be applied until the bone heals.
Casts are often worn for approximately 6 to 8 weeks. At that point, patient may begin physical therapy to help improve mobility and restore function to the wrist.