Distal Radius Fracture
(Wrist Fracture)

The radius is one of two bones in the forearm. A fracture of the distal radius is a break of this bone at the level of the wrist. The radius is the most commonly broken bone in the arm.

Causes & Symptoms

Distal radius fractures most commonly occur from a fall onto an outstretched arm. Fractures of the distal radius may occur in young patients from a high energy injury or in older patients from a fall from a standing height.

Typical symptoms include pain, deformity, tenderness, bruising, and swelling.

Evaluation & Treatment

Initial evaluation includes a medical history, physical examination, and x-rays to evaluate the fracture for displacement. Physical evaluation should also include an examination of pulse, nerve function, swelling and skin integrity. Fragments may puncture the skin which could lead to an increased risk of infection. In some cases a CT scan is needed to evaluate complex fractures.

Initial treatment includes the placement of a splint to the wrist, ice, and pain medication. Further treatment is dictated by fracture pattern, age, and activity level. Typically, nonsurgical treatment is recommended in those cases where the fracture is stable and there is good alignment of the bones in a splint is cast. This will then be followed with weekly X-rays to monitor for any movement. Surgical treatment is indicated in unstable fractures or those with displacement that cannot be reduced. If surgical treatment is indicated it is done with a plate and screws to hold the bone in place as an outpatient procedure through a small incision. After surgery immobilization in a splint or cast is needed for some time. Typically light activities, such as swimming or exercising the lower body in the gym can begin within 1 to 2 months after the cast removal. More strenuous activities such as skiing or football may be resumed after 3 to 6 months.