Treatment of Distal Radius Fracture (Wrist Fracture)
The wrist is a complex joint that transmits the force of powerful upper extremity muscles to the hand. It involves articulation of the radius and ulna with each other, as well as with the 8 carpal bones. This allows for the wrist to flex and extend, as well as rotate and twist.
Wrist fractures are usually the result of a fall onto an outstretched hand, or a severe impact such as a car crash. Most often, the pain is dramatic and there is swelling and bruising. There may be visible deformity. For these reasons most of these injuries are brought to urgent medical attention and are not ‘missed.’
Diagnosis is usually straightforward with x-ray. Treatment invariably includes casting and immobilization for a period of time. Often, results are improved when the bone is set by a specialist within the first day or two following injury. Depending on fracture anatomy or patient factors, surgery can be helpful in many ways. Surgery can often improve the chances of successfully healing the bone, and restore joint anatomy to help prevent pain and long term problems like arthritis. Time spent in casting is usually dramatically reduced by surgery as well.
The focus after casting/ surgery are complete is to attain pain free motion and restore strength. Specialized therapy sessions with physical therapists or hand therapists are useful for many patients at this stage. When properly treated, the vast majority of patients can return to pre-injury level of use.