Distal Radius Fractures

What is a Distal Radius Fracture?

A distal radius fracture is a fracture of one of the bones in the wrist, you may have heard it referred to as a wrist fracture. Typically, this is a traumatic injury caused by a fall on an outstretched hand. There are many different degrees of severity when this type of injury is sustained and there may even be other bones that are broken (fractured) due to the same fall or injury mechanism.

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How is it Diagnosed?

Distal radius fractures are most commonly diagnosed with x-rays.  Some fractures are evident from the deformity that is visualized just by looking at the injured limb.  However, all distal radius fractures will at least get x-rays, some will even need a CT or an MRI.

What are the Treatments?

Depending on the severity of your injury you will either be treated with cast immobilization for approximately 6-8 weeks. Or you may require surgery. There are many different ways to surgically treat distal radius fractures.  Over the last couple of decades volar plating has gained immense popularity for the treatment of many of these injuries. Volar plating requires an incision to be made on your wrist on the palmar (volar) surface of the wrist.  Through this incision the bone is reduced to its anatomic position and a plate and screws are inserted to maintain the reduction

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What Type of Surgery?

As outlined previously there are many techniques utilized by hand surgeons to fix distal radius fractures. Typically volar plating is used. However, you may require different fixation techniques depending on your age, fracture type, or health status.  Most patients treated with a volar plate keep the plate forever. In some patients the plate needs to be removed. In other techniques the hardware must be removed at a specific time interval.  This depends on the techniques used. 

What to Expect?

If you have had surgery you can expect to be immobilized for 4-6 weeks on average.  Some injuries are more extensive and require longer periods of immobilization.  Nearly all patients can expect to be sent to occupational therapy for treatment.  This includes range of motion exercises, various other treatments for edema control, and eventual strengthening. Typically patients are returned to full activity at 8-10 weeks depending on their particular injury.

Hand Surgery