DISTAL RADIUS WRIST FRACTURES
October 29, 2019
Paul Nielsen, MD
How is a Distal Radius Fracture Diagnosed?
- Pain in the wrist after a fall or injury
- Swelling, bruising, and deformity are also common
- X-Rays are used to check for a distal radius fracture
- Occasionally a CT scan is used if the wrist is badly fractured
What Are Common Causes of Distal Radius Fractures?
- Falling onto an outstretched arm is the most common cause
- Higher energy trauma such as car wrecks, sports, and falls from greater heights also occur
- Osteoporosis or weakening of the bones makes the wrist bone more fragile
- Older patients are more likely to break their wrist with less severe falls
What Are the Treatment Options for Distal Radius Fractures?
- Casts and braces
- Fractures lined up well can often be treated with just immobilization for about 6 weeks
- This is also used for patients who are not good candidates for surgery
- Reductions or setting the bone
- Fractures that are shifted or angled are often reduced to line them up correctly
- A splint or cast is then used to hold the bone lined up
- Usually involves putting a plate on the palm side of the wrist to hold the bone lined up correctly
- Typically a same-day outpatient procedure
What Is Recovery Like After Surgery?
- Patients are in a splint holding the wrist still for the first two weeks after surgery
- You are able to move and use your other fingers immediately post-op
- A removable splint is used until 6 weeks after surgery
- Exercises to move the wrist start at 2 weeks after surgery
- Strengthening starts 6 weeks after surgery
- Most patients regain good function of their wrist
- Rarely the plate will be removed after the fracture has healed
Worried about a distal radius fracture? Call 308-865-2570 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nielsen. Same day appointments are typically available. No referral required.
About the Author
Paul Nielsen, MD is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand & upper extremity surgery at New West Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery in Kearney, NE.