Wrist Fracture – Distal Radius Fractures Among the Most Common Wrist Fractures

X-ray of a Distal Radius Fracture, also known as a Colles Fracture

One of the most common hand and upper extremity fractures we see is a distal radius fracture.  This is because of its position at the end of the forearm bone where it meets the wrist and the essential involvement of our hands and wrist in everyday activities and sports.  Our hands and wrists are also the first line of defense in a trauma – used as a shield to soften the blow of a harsh impact or to break a fall.

There are many opportunities to injure the distal radius.

The radius is the larger of the two bones located in the forearm. “Distal” radius refers to the lower end of this bone where it meets the wrist. The other forearm bone is the ulna, and together these two bones form the radioulnar joint.

Also called a “Colles” fracture for the anatomist who first described it, a distal radius fracture is common among those involved in contact sports as well as those suffering from osteoporosis.  It is occasionally misdiagnosed as a sprain and improperly treated – which could eventually lead to joint instability and osteoarthritis.

Some of the symptoms associated with a distal radius fracture include:

  • Swelling
  • Weakness and reduced range of motion
  • Persistent pain
  • Possible numbness
  • Deformity

Once identified, initial treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture, other soft tissue damage, and the type of break (simple or complex).  A wrist fracture may be treated non surgically by manipulating the broken sections back into place (closed reduction) and stabilizing the wrist with a splint.  More severe breaks may require surgical repair.

Next month’s blog will discuss how fractures are categorized and how they determine the treatment selected.