Wrist fracture (Broken wrist)
About a broken wrist
Distal radius fracture is the medical term for a broken wrist.
There are eight small bones in each wrist which connect with radius and ulna, the two long bones of our forearm.
A broken wrist happens when at least one of these 10 bones breaks, but the most common bone to break is the radius.
Broken wrist causes
A wrist fracture usually results from falling and landing on an outstretched hand.
People who play contact sports, skiers, in-line skaters, snowboarders, bikers, horseback riders are at higher risk of a broken wrist.
Also, older people with osteoporosis are at risk for wrist fractures.
Signs and Symptoms of a broken wrist
A broken wrist immediately causes is pain and swelling. Other signs may include:
- Difficulty in using hand and moving the wrist
- Deformity (when a bone is out of place)
- Pain with finger movement
Broken Wrist Diagnosis
The orthopedic surgeon must do a physical examination and may ask for several x-rays to see if there is a broken bone.
If the doctor suspects that the fracture might have affected nerves, ligaments and muscles, he may ask for other tests such as a CT scan or MRI scan may be needed to get better detail.
Also, you are strongly recommended to go to the emergency room if:
- You feel great pain in your wrist.
- Your wrist, arm, or hand is numb.
- Your fingers are pale.
What’s the Treatment for a Broken Wrist?
It’s very important to treat a broken wrist as soon as possible.
Early treatment minimize pain and helps to avoid other risks. For example, if the bones don’t heal in proper alignment, this can affect your everyday activities, such as writing or buttoning a shirt.
Treatment depends on:
- The type and severity of fracture that can be displaced, unstable or open
- The age of the patient
- Whether the fracture is in the “dominant” hand
- The presence of other injuries
If the fracture is not too severe and unstable, you will probably need a splint for a few days and then a cast
for six to eight weeks, depending on how severe the break is.
Surgery may be necessary to put the broken bones back together and hold them in the correct place.
When surgery is needed the orthopedic surgeon may fix the fracture with pins, screws, plates, rods or even external fixation.
Broken wrist Complication
Complications are rare and depend on the severity of the fracture.
They might include:
Ongoing aching or disability.
Some people experience permanent stiffness or pain. In this case, it is important to ask your doctor about exercises and physical or occupational therapy that may help your recovery
Fractures that extend into a joint can cause arthritis, even years later.
Nerve damage or blood vessel damage.
If the trauma to the wrist injured nerves and blood vessel you may have numbness or circulation problems. Pay attention to these signs and talk to your orthopedic surgeon.
During the recovery time, some tricks may be helpful:
- Elevate your wrist (for example on a pillow) or above the level of your heart. This will reduce pain and swelling, in particular during the first days.
- Ice You can put ice on your wrist for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours for the first days.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to deal with pain and swelling.
- Practice stretching for your fingers, elbow, and shoulder and do strengthening exercises, according to your doctor recommendation
During recovery, it is indeed very important to keep your fingers moving and it is often helpful to recover motion, strength and function.
Recovery time may vary depending on different factors.
It may take eight weeks to several months. And it is important to be patient and not to rush back into activity too soon, to avoid more serious damage.
How to prevent broken wrist
Of course, it is quite impossible to prevent the unforeseen events that often cause a broken wrist, since it usually happens during an accidental fall.
If you suffer from ageing diseases such as osteoporosis, you may talk to your doctor that can suggest you steps and tips you can take to improve your bone health.
Here are some tips that might offer some protection
Build bone strength
A diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D may help
Weight-bearing exercises, such as brisk walking are very useful to strengthen your bones and joints.
Even if an accidental fall is unforeseeable, there are some practical steps that you may adopt.
- Wear sensible shoes
- Remove things you can trip over
- Check your vision regularly
- Install grab bars in your bathroom and handrails on your stairways
During sport activities in the snow, ice or hard surfaces (such as In-line skating, snowboarding, skiing) use protective gear and wrist guards.
Prof. Nicola Portinaro’s experience
Prof. Portinaro is has been treating a broken wrist for more than 30 years.
He has personally performed more than 100 surgeries both in adults and child with different techniques