Distal radius fractures refer to fractures that occur in the radius bone of the forearm near the wrist joint. They are one of the most common types of fractures and typically result from a fall onto an outstretched hand or a direct impact to the wrist. The most common cause of distal radius fractures is a fall onto an outstretched hand, often when trying to break a fall. Other causes include sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and direct blows to the wrist.
Distal radius fractures can vary in their location, pattern, and severity. Fractures the involve the wrist joint can be associated with significant cartilage damage and lead to wrist stiffness and an increased risk of wrist arthritis.
X-rays are commonly used to confirm a distal radius fracture. A CT scan of your wrist is sometimes needed to determine the exact location and pattern of the fracture, and assess any associated injuries.
Distal Radius Fracture
A distal radius fracture is the most common upper limb fracture
An X-Ray of a distal radius fracture (circle)
An X-Ray of fixed distal radius fracture with a titanium plate and several screws, restoring normal wrist anatomy
For non-displaced or minimally displaced fractures, where the bone fragments remain in their normal position, immobilisation in a splint or a cast is often the initial treatment. The splint or cast helps to support and immobilise the fracture, allowing it to heal. Immobilisation is usually needed for six weeks.
Surgery for wrist fractures is typically considered in certain cases where the fracture is significantly displaced, associated with multiple fragments, open fractures, or fractures with associated injuries. The surgical treatment aims to realign and stabilise the fractured bone fragments to promote proper healing.
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF) is the most common surgical procedure for distal radius fractures. It involves making an incision over the fractured area to directly access the fracture site. The fractured bone fragments are then realigned (reduced) into their proper position, and they are held together with a specialised titanium plate and screws.
The recovery time for a wrist fracture can vary depending on your specific injury. In general, it takes three months for a wrist fracture to heal:
- Initial Healing Phase (1-2 weeks): In the first few weeks after a wrist fracture, the focus is on immobilisation and protecting the injured area. You will usually wear a splint or backslab (half cast).
- Early Rehabilitation Phase (2-6 weeks): Once the initial healing has taken place, the next phase involves early mobilisation and gentle range-of-motion exercises. You will be referred to a hand therapist to help you during this phase to improve wrist range of motion.
- Mid Rehabilitation Phase (6-12 weeks): As the fracture continues to heal, more intensive rehabilitation and strengthening exercises are introduced. These exercises target the muscles and joints around the wrist to regain strength, stability, and range of motion.
- Return to Normal Activities (12weeks+): Once your fracture has healed, you can return to normal activities, such as manual work and sports.
Get Expert Help
If you have injured yourself, it is important to get your injury evaluated and to perform appropriate diagnostic tests. Dr. Arthur Turow can assess your injury, provide you with an accurate diagnosis and suggest appropriate treatment options specific for your individual needs.
Please use above information as a guide only. More detailed information specific to your condition and your recovery will be given in your consultation with Dr. Arthur Turow, who will also provide additional resources to supplement your discussion. For more information, please contact the rooms of Dr. Arthur Turow on (08) 8236 4179.