Wrist fracture

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What is a wrist fracture?

The wrist joint connects the hand to the forearm. A fracture of the wrist can mean one of the wrist's small (carpal) bones breaking or a broken forearm bone (distal radius). The radius most often fractures at the lower end, near where it connects to the bones of the hand and thumb.

 

What are the causes of wrist fractures?

Older adults are vulnerable to wrist fractures because of low bone density. As their bone is fragile, it does not take too much force to break their bone.

Active young adults with fractured wrists are usually a result of "high energy mechanisms", such as skiing accidents or getting hit while playing sports. The fractures in those patients tend to be more severe.

 

Symptoms of wrist fracture

A broken wrist usually causes immediate severe pain, bruising and swelling. Often, your wrist looks odd because it is deformed after a fracture. In very severe fractures, the nerve can be affected by the injury, resulting in numb fingers. If you experience numb fingers after a wrist injury, go to the emergency room immediately. Address the wound quickly to prevent permanent nerve damage.

 

When should I seek medical help?

There are circumstances when wrist pain might be caused or accompanied by severe issues. If such symptoms are present, it is best to seek immediate medical attention to avoid further complications:

  • Immediate pain and swelling in the wrist after a fall or injury

  • Deformation of the wrist

  • Numbness of fingers could indicate damage to the nerve due to severe fracture

 

Diagnosis

To diagnose a wrist fracture, your doctor will order wrist X-rays. X-rays can show whether the bone is broken, the number of the bone fragments, or if there is any displacement. Sometimes, the doctor may order a computed tomography (CT) scan, which provides 3-D pictures of the broken bone. It can help with surgical planning.

 

Treatment

Wearing a cast or a splint, usually for five to six weeks, followed by physical therapy to gain strength and restore your range of motion is an usual modality of treatment for wrist fractures. 

If the fracture is unstable, displaced, surgery may be required to hold the bones in place. Surgery for wrist fracture uses pins, plates or screws to hold the bone. The pins are usually temporary. After the surgery, patients wear a cast or splint for several weeks and undergo physical therapy to restore the wrist function.