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What are the Different Types of Distal Radius Fractures?

A distal radius fracture is a very common injury that can occur because of a simple fall in some cases.

In this blog, orthopedic physicians Dr. Ather Mirza and Dr. Justin Mirza of Mirza Orthopedics outline the different types of distal radius fractures and explain how the type of fracture affects the treatment needed.

What is a distal radius fracture?

A distal radius fracture is a broken wrist. It specifically refers to a break at the end of the radius, one of two bones in the forearm. The distal end is located toward the wrist, and this is where a distal radius fracture occurs.

What causes this type of fracture?

This type of injury most often occurs when you fall onto your outstretched arm and hand. You might do this if you fall while you’re riding a bicycle, for example. As you try to break your fall, you extend your arm, and the distal radius bone can end up absorbing the force. If the force is great enough when compared to the strength of the bone, the bone will fracture.

People who have osteoporosis are even more vulnerable to this type of break, which can sometimes occur as the result of a simple fall.

What are the symptoms?

A distal radius fracture can cause the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Difficulty moving the hand or wrist
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers or at the tips of the fingers
  • An appearance of deformity

What are the different types of distal radius fractures?

  • Colles fracture – a common type of fracture in which the broken part of the bone tilts upward
  • Intra-articular fracture – extends into the wrist joint
  • Extra-articular fracture – doesn’t extend into the wrist
  • Hairline or non-displaced fracture – the bone isn’t out of place
  • Displaced fracture – the bone is out of place
  • Comminuted fracture – the bone breaks in more than two pieces
  • Open fracture – the bone breaks through the skin, which raises the risk of infection

What are the treatment options for distal radius fractures?

Several things determine the best type of treatment, including the type of fracture you have and whether it’s open or displaced. Your doctor will also consider your age, lifestyle, and general health as well as whether the fracture affects your dominant hand.

Non-surgical treatment

In some cases, surgery may not be necessary. A padded splint may be worn at first, and in some cases, your doctor may have to re-align bone fragments without opening your skin and then apply a cast a few days later.

After your cast is removed, you may receive physical therapy to help your wrist move and function better.

Surgical treatment

An open fracture won’t heal without surgery and carries a risk of infection, so this type of injury will require surgery as soon as possible.

If the bone is too displaced to be corrected by a cast, surgery may also be needed. This usually involves an orthopedic surgeon making an incision in order to re-align the bone fragments.

The fracture can be held in place with one or more of the following devices:

  • Cast
  • Pins
  • Screws
  • Plates
  • Rods
  • External fixator (a stabilizing frame outside your body)

If you have a broken wrist, make an appointment today with Mirza Orthopedics. Our orthopedic surgeons have extensive experience in diagnosing distal radius and other fractures and providing the best non-surgical and surgical treatments to help you regain strength and mobility.

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