Distal Radius Fractures: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

A fracture can compromise your activity level and quality of life. Our Hand Center offers comprehensive care for hand and wrist fractures, providing an unmatched level of expertise. Our hand specialists will explain your treatment options and work with you to determine a personalized recovery plan. All of our hand surgeons have completed a hand surgery fellowship, specializing in hand and microvascular surgery. Learn about distal radius fracture causes, symptoms and treatments below.

What is a Distal Radius Fracture?

A distal radius fracture is a common type of wrist fracture that occurs in the radius bone of the forearm. While this type of fracture can happen in different ways, and can be categorized in four ways, it most commonly occurs one inch from the end of the radius bone (referred to as the distal end).
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Classifications of Distal Radius Fractures:

  • Extra-articular – extends into the wrist joint.
  • Intra-articular – does not extend into the joint.
  • Open fracture – fractured bone breaks the skin
  • Comminuted fracture – bone is broken into more than two pieces.

What Causes a Distal Radius Fracture?

Wrist fractures can happen at any age- to people with healthy bones or unhealthy bones. However, those with healthy bones may be able to withstand a stronger amount of force or impact to the wrist than those with weakened bones.

Wrist fractures are often the result of a fall, particularly when you stretch your arm outward to break the fall. The risk of a distal radius fracture increases if the person has osteoporosis, because the weakened state of the bone cannot typically sustain even a relatively minor fall.

Wrist fractures are also typically seen in trauma incidents like motor vehicle accidents and motorcycle accidents.

What are Common Symptoms?

If you have broken your wrist, you will quickly feel the effects. A broken wrist most often accompanied by:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty moving fingers or thumb
  • Deformity

How are Distal Radius Fractures Treated?

When treating a distal radius fracture, our team of specialists must consider a number of factors, such as the severity of the injury, how the injury happened, your age, medical condition, and lifestyle.

Sometimes, if the bone is fairly aligned, you may be able to forego surgery and instead wear a plaster cast to help the bone heal. However, if the bone fell out of alignment during the fracture, the surgeon may need to apply the reduction method. This involves realigning the bone fragments and placing a splint or cast on the affected arm.

When a distal radius fracture is more severe, and the bone cannot be treated with a cast or the broken bone has pierced through the skin, surgery is required. In the event of an open fracture (when the bone has pierced the skin), surgery must happen as quickly as possible to prevent infection. The surgeon may use metal pins, plates and screws, or a stabilizing frame to correct the fracture.