Wrist Fractures

What is it?

The wrist is the joint between the forearm and hand, and is composed of a number of bones.

In wrist fractures, the most common bones to be broken is the radius and ulna, the two long bones that form the forearm. Breaks generally happen through a fall, but can also occur through more severe mechanisms e.g. car accident.

What are the symptoms?

There will be pain, swelling, stiffness and bruising immediately after the injury. There may also be a visible deformity of the forearm. A common name is a ‘dinner fork’ deformity, where the wrist is angled backwards like a dinner fork.

An X-ray is needed initially to diagnose the break. Most of the time, a break is easy to diagnose and your surgeon will discuss the best form of treatment with you.

Occasionally, for subtle injuries, an X-ray may not be enough and either a CT or MRI scan will be needed to confirm or exclude a fracture.

what is the treatment?

For fractures that are undisplaced – meaning there is a crack but the bones have not moved apart, a cast is generally all that is needed for 6-8 weeks.

For displaced fractures – where the bones have moved apart, surgery is needed to put the bone fragments back to their original position. This can be achieved through wires, or with specially made metal plates and screws. Your surgeon should discuss with you in detail the fixation method if you require surgery.

After surgery, if K-wires are used, then plaster will be needed for a minimum of 6 weeks. For patients fixed with plates and screws, the plaster can often be removed after 2 weeks and gentle mobilisation begun.

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