Broken Wrist | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

Overview and Facts about Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

A distal radius fracture is an orthopedic condition characterized by a fracture or break in the radius, the large bone located in your forearm near your wrist. Distal radius fractures occur in males and females and are common among all bone fracture cases. Distal radius fractures are categorized by the type and extent of the injury to the radius. For example, a Colles fracture has an upward tilt in the broken end of the radius. Other types of distal radius fractures include intra-articular, joint, extra-articular, open and comminuted fractures.

Signs and Symptoms of Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

Immediate pain and tenderness in the wrist is the main symptom associated with a distal radius fracture.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Loss of flexibility and function in the wrist
  • Bruising and swelling around the wrist
  • Visible deformities in the wrist, such as abnormal hanging or bending

Causes and Risk Factors of Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

Individuals with low bone density (osteoporosis and osteopenia) are at risk for distal radius fractures. Age is also a risk factor, with individuals over the age of 60 being the most likely to suffer a broken wrist. A distal radius fracture commonly occurs if you catch yourself with your hands and wrists after falling from a standing position. High-impact trauma to the wrist, which can occur during an automobile or bike accident or while playing sports, could also cause a break.

Tests and Diagnosis of Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

Doctors use x-rays to diagnose distal radius fractures. X-rays help them determine the location, severity, and extent of the fracture. Computerized tomography (CT) scans provide a clearer image of the bone to assess damage more precisely. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allows a doctor to observe any damage to tissues in the wrist.

Treatment and Care for Distal Radius Fracture (Broken Wrist)

You can prevent distal radius fractures by engaging in safe behavior and wearing personal protective equipment, such as wrist guards. The level of treatment for distal radius fractures varies depending on the type and extent of the injury. Most cases require emergency treatment in the form of surgery and casting to correct and stabilize the broken radius and promote healing. Pain associated with the injury is treated with intravenous (IV) medications in clinical settings, followed by oral medications at home.