Distal Radius Fracture
A distal radius fracture is the most common bone to break in the arm. The radius is the bigger of the two bones on your forearm. The end of the bone towards your wrist is called the distal end. A distal radius fracture occurs when you break the area on the radius of your wrist. In this article, you will learn about the different kinds of distal radius fractures, the causes and symptoms of a distal radius fracture, and how a distal radial fracture is diagnosed and treated.
- Colles’ fracture. A Colles’ fracture, also known as a transverse wrist fracture, is an extra-articular fracture of the distal radius with dorsal angulation and displacement within 2 centimeters of the articular surface. This type of fracture happens when a person falls forward and places their hands out in front of them. As the person falls, the force of the fall forces the wrist into supination. This type of injury is more common in older people who have brittle and weak bones, and in young children who have softer bones.
- Barton’s fracture. A Barton’s fracture is an intra-articular fracture of the distal radius. There are two types of Barton’s fracture: dorsal and palmar. Similar to a Colles’ fracture, a dorsal Barton’s fracture is the result of falling on outstretched hands.
- Smith’s fracture. A Smith’s fracture, also known as a Goyrand fracture, is the volar angulation of the distal fragment. Basically, it is the reverse of a Colles’ fracture. A Smith’s fracture occurs after suffering a direct blow to the back of your wrists or falling onto flexed wrists. Whereas a Colles’ fracture occurs after falling onto extended wrists. Out of these different classifications, the Smith’s fracture is the least common type of distal radius fracture.
What causes a distal radial fracture?
The most common cause of a distal radial fracture is falling. However, there are some other factors that contribute to distal radial fractures.
- Falls. As mentioned earlier, falls are the most common cause for distal radius fractures. When you suffer a bad fall, it’s natural to stretch out your hands in front of you to break your fall. Unfortunately, when you try to cushion your fall, all your body weight will put a lot of stress on your hands. So, if you suffer a bad enough fall, you can seriously injure yourself.
- Age. Age is a huge factor in increasing your likelihood of fracturing your distal radius. As you age, your bones become weaker and you start to lose muscle mass. The combination of losing muscle mass and bone strength can make you more susceptible to fracturing your wrist.
- Bone disorders. Bone disorders, like Osteoporosis, are another factor that increases the chances of suffering a distal radius fracture. Bone disorders will weaken your bones, making them especially fragile and more susceptible to fractures.
What are the symptoms of a distal radial fracture?
- Pain. It is common to experience immediate pain after injuring your wrist. In addition, your wrist might feel tender to the touch.
- Swelling and bruising. Swelling and bruising around the wrist is very likely after suffering a bad fall.
- Deformity. Your wrist might be deformed, meaning it looks different compared to your uninjured wrist. This symptom is more common if your fracture is severe.
How is a distal radius fracture diagnosed?
If you have any of the above symptoms, you will want to see your doctor right away. If your injury is extremely painful, you lose feeling in your fingers, or if your injury is discolored, you will want to go to the emergency room immediately. When you see your doctor, he or she will do a number of things to figure out your diagnoses.
- Patient history. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions in order to find out more about your injury. Some questions might include: What are your symptoms? When did the pain start? How severe is the pain? How did you injure yourself? Are there any specific movements that increase your pain level?
- Physical exam. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam of your injured wrist. The doctor will look for dislocations and discolorations and might ask you to perform a series of movements to get a better understanding of the extent of your injuries.
- Imaging and tests. Imaging and tests are the most accurate and reliable way to diagnose a distal radius fracture. The doctor will almost always order an X-ray to get a closer look of your wrist. Other imaging tests might include an MRI test, CT test, or bone scan.
How is a distal radius fracture treated?
Once your doctor has diagnosed you with a distal radius fracture, there are a number of different treatments that he or she might describe to you. The treatment that your doctor describes depends on the severity of your injury. Generally, treatment can be classified into two sections: non-surgical treatment and surgical treatment.
- Non-surgical treatment. If your distal radius fracture is in a good position, your doctor will most likely put your wrist in a cast or splint. Overtime, the bone will heal itself. Typically, the cast or splint will stay on for about 6 weeks. Then, you will wear a removable splint for extra support. Then, you can start physical therapy to start regaining strength in your injured wrist.
- Surgical treatment. If your fracture is unstable or cannot be treated with a cast or splint, surgery is the next best option. Usually, the surgeon will make an incision over your wrist where he or she can easily access the break. From there, the surgeon can put the broken pieces back together using plates or screws. After surgery, you will wear a splint for extra support. Eventually, you will start physical therapy to help regain strength and mobility in your wrist.
Treating a distal radial fracture at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
Distal radius fractures can be quite painful and will only progress if untreated. At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we understand how important it is to build back strength in an injured area, especially something like your wrist which you use to do the most simple and basic everyday tasks.
If you are recovering from a distal radius fracture, contact us today to book an appointment!