The radius is the larger of the two bones of the forearm. The end toward the wrist is called the distal end. A fracture of the distal radius occurs when the area of the radius near the wrist breaks. The descriptions fracture, break and hairline fracture or crack all describe a broken bone. Distal radius fractures are very common. In fact, the radius is the most commonly broken bone in the arm.
One of the most common distal radius fractures is a Colles fracture, in which the broken fragment of the radius tilts upward. This fracture was first described in 1814 by an Irish surgeon and anatomist, Abraham Colles — hence the name “Colles” fracture.
What are the other ways the distal radius can break?
The distal radius can break in multiple ways:
Extra-articular fracture: A fracture that does not extend into the joint is called an extra-articular fracture.
Open fracture: When a fractured bone breaks the skin, it is called an open fracture. These types of fractures require immediate medical attention because of an increased risk of infection.
Comminuted fracture: When a bone is broken into more than two pieces, it is called a comminuted fracture.
It is important to classify the type of fracture, because some fractures are more difficult to treat than others. Some types will require different treatments and may be associated with a worse long term outcome.
Sometimes, the other bone of the forearm (the ulna) is also broken. This is called a distal ulna fracture.
How do Wrist Fractures occur?
Osteoporosis, a disorder in which bones become very fragile and more likely to break, can make a relatively minor fall result in a broken wrist. Many distal radius fractures in people older than 60 years of age are caused by a fall from a standing position. In this group of fractures it is important to assess whether osteoporosis is present or not.
The initial assessment and X-rays are usually undertaken in the Accident and Emergency Department. At the same time a temporary plaster cast or splint will be applied.
Here are treatment options for Wrist fractures
If the position (alignment) of your bone is out of place and likely to limit the future use of your arm, it may be necessary to re-align or “manipulate” the broken bone fragments. This manipulation may be undertaken under a local, regional (arm numbed) or general (asleep) anaesthetic. We call this “reduction of the fracture”. If the fracture is going to be treated in plaster then this will be done without cutting the skin. If a plate is to be applied then the skin will be opened after the manipulation and an “open reduction” performed followed by application of the plate and screws.