If you trip and fall, it is natural to put your hands out to protect yourself and break your fall. A distal radius fracture is a common wrist fracture that often results from falls on an outstretched arm, especially among older people. This injury also tends to happen to young adults when engaging in high-impact sports, and their injuries can actually be more extensive because the impact is more severe than just an outstretched hand.
Treatment can vary depending on the severity of your wrist fracture. Your orthopedic surgeon will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment in order to ensure a successful recovery.
What Is a Distal Radius Fracture?
The forearm (the area between your elbow and your wrist) is made up of two bones called the radius and the ulna. The radius is the larger of the two bones, and the end of the bone toward the wrist is the distal end. A distal radius fracture often occurs approximately 1 inch from the end of the bone, where it is particularly vulnerable because it meets the tiny carpal (wrist) bones in that area.
There are different ways in which the distal radius can break. It is important to classify the type of fracture in order to treat it effectively, as some distal radial fractures – such as those that extend to the wrist joint, or a fracture that breaks the skin – can be difficult to treat. Sometimes the ulna bone in the forearm is also broken, in which case the break is called a distal ulna fracture.
A broken distal radius usually causes immediate pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising. In some cases, there may also be an obvious deformity. If you experience severe pain, if you have an open fracture (where the bone breaks the skin), if the wrist area is deformed or numb, or if the fingers are no longer pink, seek immediate medical treatment.
Wrist Fracture Care and Treatment
Treatment for a distal radius fracture depends on the severity of the fracture and whether the bone fragments have moved during the break – and are no longer aligned. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will order X-rays of the wrist area to identify whether any bones are broken and whether any bone fragments are displaced.
The main goal of treatment is to align the fractured bone fragments in order to allow the bone to heal back together correctly. Minor fractures (ones where the bones are not misaligned) are typically treated with nonsurgical methods, including wearing a cast or splint until the bone heals. The doctor will also recommend rest and pain-relief medication.
For more serious and complex fractures, surgery is often required to realign the bone fragments to ensure that they heal properly. Surgical hardware including pins, metal plates, rods, and screws may be used to hold the fractured bone fragments together during the healing process; if the bone has been crushed or severely damaged, a bone graft may be required to fill the gaps.
After the bone fragments have been properly aligned, a splint or cast will be applied. A splint is often used for the first few days to allow for swelling to subside. Once the swelling has gone down, a cast is then applied.
Hand and Wrist Surgeon in the Chicago North-West Suburbs
It is recommended that you seek an evaluation and treatment by an orthopedic surgeon if you have concerns about an injury, because delaying treatment can hinder your recovery and cause additional problems.
Orthopedic physician Dr. Michele Y. Yoon is a skilled hand specialist who has the expertise to effectively address all types of hand and wrist and elbow and shoulder conditions, including fracture care, through surgical and nonsurgical treatment modalities.
To find out more about the services we offer, call our office today at (847) 957-4183 or use our online request an appointment form to arrange a consultation. We are conveniently located in midtown Manhattan. We look forward to serving you.