Distal Radius Fractures
The radius is the larger of the two bones of the forearm, with the end toward the wrist known as the distal end. Most distal radius fractures almost always occur approximately 1 inch from the end of the bone. It is one of the most commonly broken bones in the arm.
The distal radius can break in different ways. These fractures are categorised according to how they break and the location of the bone breakage.
Types of fractures include:
- Open fracture happens when the bone breaks through your skin.
- Comminuted fracture occurs when the bone breaks into more than two pieces.
- Intra-articular fracture happens when the bone breaks into your wrist joint.
- Extra-articular fracture refers to fractures that do not affect the joint surface.
Some of these fractures such as the intra-articular fractures and comminuted fractures are known to be more difficult to treat. Hence it is important for your hand specialist to determine the type of fracture you’ve sustained in order to provide you with the optimal treatment plan.
One of the most common causes of distal radius fractures is a fall onto an outstretched hand. Broken wrists can occur in healthy bones especially if the force of trauma is severe enough, for instance, in a car accident.
However, the majority of the cases tend to happen in elderly because of them falling onto their hands from a standing position. Patients suffering from osteoporosis (a disorder in which bones become very fragile, increasing their risks of fractures) can also break their wrist from a relatively minor fall. Hence, having good bone health is an important prevention method.
The symptoms of a broken wrist are usually pain, tenderness, bruising, and swelling. In many cases, the wrist hangs in an odd position or may look bent (deformed).
It is advisable to head to the A&E immediately if you sustain a broken wrist, and notice that your wrist is deformed, feel numbness, or if your fingers are not pink. However, if the injury is not as painful after the fall, you may be able to wait till the next day to see a doctor. In the meantime, you can apply an ice pack to the wrist and keep it elevated until a doctor or your hand specialist is available.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctors or hand specialists in Singapore will order X-rays of the wrist. X-rays are commonly used to identify fractures as well as displacement of bones.
The aim of treatment for broken bones is to put them back into position, and prevent the broken pieces from moving out of place until they are healed.
There are several different treatment options for distal radius fractures, and the choice depends on factors such as the nature of the fracture, age, hand dominance and activity level.
One common nonsurgical option is the application of plaster cast. This is usually recommended if your broken bone is in a good position and does not involve the joint surface.
However, if the alignment of your broken bone cannot be restored satisfactorily with external manipulation and is likely to limit the future use of your hand, your doctor may advise you to undergo open realignment of the broken bone fragments. This procedure is also known as “reduction”. A closed reduction is when a bone is aligned without having to make an incision. You will most likely require a backslab or a cast to be placed on your arm after your bone has been properly aligned. A backslab is commonly used for the first few days to allow for swelling to settle, after which a cast is added. Your doctor may also take regular x-rays to monitor the healing process. Once the cast is removed, you can start physical therapy to help improve the range of motion and function of the injured wrist.
Surgery is only recommended if the position of the bone is out of place and cannot be corrected in a cast. Patients who suffer from open fractures will also have to undergo surgery as soon as possible, as the exposed soft tissue and bone has to be thoroughly cleaned to prevent infections.
Every case is different, hence it is best to consult a hand surgeon to determine the treatment method that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you have sustained a distal radius fracture and let us help you.