Wrist (Distal Radius) Fractures

Wrist fractures generally refer to fractures at the distal end of the radius where the forearm bone joins with the small bones of the wrist. They are one of the most common fractures in the body and often are the result of a simple fall onto an outstretched hand. Of course these injuries can also occur after more significant trauma such as motor vehicle accidents.

Not all wrist fractures are the same and there are a number of factors that contribute to how your particular fracture should be treated and what kind of outcome can be expected. Whether the joint surface is fractured, how far the bones have moved from their original position and whether or not your bones are still growing will all have a significant bearing on management.

What is important is to get your fracture assessed early. Even the most simple fractures can become difficult to treat if not seen in the first week or two. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you see a surgeon specialising in treatment of the hand and wrist for your wrist fracture. This way you will receive a comprehensive assessment of the whole injury (not always just the bones) as well as thorough follow up and the ability to address any other issues around the hand or wrist that can arise as the result of this injury.

The rate of surgery for wrist fractures has increased exponentially in the last 10–15 years. This is largely because surgery for wrist fractures will generally result in more predictable results in the long term and also facilitate a faster rehabilitation and return to function than traditional cast treatment. Like any procedure though, surgery for wrist fractures does carry some associated risks and realistic expectations must be based on your individual circumstances.

Surgery for Distal Radius Fractures

The most common way that we fix distal radius fractures is by using a metal plate and screws on the bone surface at the front of the wrist. This plate and the screws that go through it will hold your fractured wrist in a stable position as the fracture heals, so that when it does so, your wrist is back to being as normal as possible.

There are of course a number of alternative strategies and implants to treat fractures of the distal radius. Working as part of the specialist upper limb trauma unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Justin has extensive experience in treating fractures at the most severe end of the spectrum and is well equipped with a number of strategies to ensure your outcome is optimised.

Following surgery your wrist will be placed in a half-plaster (back slab) for a few days before you will see a hand therapist. They will custom fit a low-profile protective splint, and start your post-operative rehabilitation. This involves swelling control, scar management, range of motion exercises and finally strengthening and reconditioning to ensure you get over your injury as soon as possible.

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