A wrist fracture, better known as a broken wrist, is most frequently caused by a hard fall onto the wrist when someone tries to catch themselves during a fall. Weakened bones affected by Osteoporosis (a disorder where the bones become very fragile) are more apt to break more easily because the bone is more brittle.
Osteoporosis can very easily turn a relatively minor fall into a broken wrist. Frequently, wrist fractures in people older than 60 are from a fall when they are in a standing position.
Even though wrists can fracture, segments of the wrist can also become torn or sprained.
However, a broken wrist can occur even in people with healthy bones, if the force of the impact is severe enough. For instance, a fall from a bicycle or a car accident may produce enough force to break a wrist.
This type of fracture is usually simple to treat, although treatment is very dependent on if the bones remained in the correct alignment after the fracture. Depending on how much the wrist bones have shifted, surgery may be necessary to realign the bones.
It’s critical to treat a broken wrist as soon as possible. Early treatment will help minimize long term pain and stiffness. Also, the bones might not heal in proper alignment, which might affect the patient’s ability to do everyday activities, such as buttoning a shirt or writing.
Structure of the Wrist
The radius is the bigger of the two bones that make up the forearm with the end toward the wrist called the distal end. A fracture of the distal radius arises when this area of the radius near the wrist is broken.
A broken wrist typically produces immediate pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising. Often, the wrist hangs in an odd or bent way. A fractured wrist is typically painful and movement is altered. If you have a wrist fracture, you may feel:
• Sharp pain in the bone anywhere in the wrist, depending on which bone was injured.
• Pain in the fingers and even into the forearm.
• Your wrist may swell-up.
• Palpation over the bone of the wrist may revel tenderness.
• Movement of the fingers or the wrist may be difficult and painful.
Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine hand specialist will review your symptoms and medical history to establish if you have a fracture. The Orthopedic physician will order diagnostic testing such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to determine the break’s location and severity. These images will illustrate if the wrist was displaced and how many pieces of broken bone fragments there are. This is essential information to determine if the fracture can be treated conservatively by reducing or setting the bone without surgery and immobilizing the wrist via hard cast, splint, or a wrist brace to permit the fracture to heal in its correct position.
Ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves may also be injured when the wrist is broken and will need to be treated.
The most important part of the treatment process for a wrist fracture is to make sure the broken bone fragments are in the correct alignment before they heal, and stay in alignment. Fractures that heal in improper alignment can limit the arm’s functionality and put the patient at risk for developing arthritis later in life. There are both nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available to treat this type of wrist fracture.
When the broken bone is properly positioned, a plaster cast is worn until the bone heals. If the bone is not too severely shifted, a closed reduction may be utilized before applying the cast. In a closed reduction, the fractured bone is realigned without cutting into the arm. For best results, a closed reduction must be performed as soon as possible after the injury.
Approximately six-eight weeks after the cast was applied, it will be ready to be removed. Generally, the patient will begin physical therapy with a Hand or Occupational Therapist to help improve the motion and function of the injured wrist.
If the fracture is severe or poorly aligned, then surgery will most likely be required. Fractures that shatter into many pieces or break apart the smooth joint surface may make the bone unstable. During the surgery, an incision is made to permit access to the broken bones. The surgeon will then realign the bones and close the incision.
Fractures typically heal in six-eight weeks; afterward, the patient usually works with a Hand or Occupational Therapist to return range of motion and strength.
Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine has an excellent hand and wrist surgeon Dr. Alexander Lampley, who can diagnose and treat your broken or fractured wrist.