The radius is the larger of the two bones in the forearm. The part of the radius closest to the wrist is known as the distal end. When the distal end of the radius is broken, this is known as a distal radial fracture. Though a misnomer, many people consider this to be a broken wrist. These kinds of injuries are common, and can be treated in a variety of ways. Those in the greater Atlanta, GA area that have suffered from a distal radial fracture can count on Dr. Steven Bailey at The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery for effective treatment and care.

What Is a Distal Radial Fracture?

A distal radial fracture occurs when the portion of the radius closest to the wrist breaks. This is one of the most common types of bone fractures. In the vast majority of cases, the bone breaks within 1 inch of the end of the distal portion of the radius.

Symptoms of Distal Radial Fractures

Some of the most common symptoms of a distal radial fracture include:

  • Pain in the arm near the wrist
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Severe sensitivity and tenderness
  • Deformation of the arm near the wrist

If a person suffers from an open distal radial fracture, the radius breaks the skin and is visible.

Causes of Distal Radial Fractures

The most common cause of distal radial fractures is physical trauma, often sustained when people put their arms out then they fall. It's instinctual for people to hold out their arms to break their fall, and when tremendous stress is placed on the hands and wrists, this can lead to a fracture of the distal radius.

Types of Distal Radial Fractures

There are two types of distal radial fractures, and they are classified by the exact nature of the injury.

  • Intra-Articular Fracture: An intra-articular fracture occurs when the fracture extends from the distal end of the radius into the wrist joint.
  • Extra-Articular Fracture: An extra-articular fracture occurs when the fracture only involves the distal radius and not the wrist joint.

It is also possible for the broken portion of the distal radius to be displaced or non-displaced.

  • Non-Displaced Fracture: A non-displaced fracture means that the broken portion of the bone is still in its proper position relative to the rest of the radius.
  • Displaced Fracture: A displaced fracture means that the broken portion of the radius is separated from the rest of the radius.

Distal Radial Fracture Diagnosis

X-rays are commonly used when diagnosing a broken wrist or a distal radius fracture at our practice. X-ray images of the hand and arm allow us to determine what type of distal radial fracture occurred and if other structures of the hand, wrist, or arm were affected. There will also be discussion about the nature of the injury and how it occurred.

Treatment of Distal Radial Fractures

In many cases, distal radial fractures can be treated without the need for surgery. If the fractured bone is not displaced or can be reset easily, a patient is typically given a plaster cast so the bone can heal. A cast will be worn for up to six weeks depending on the severity of the fracture.

If the distal radius has been displaced, surgery may be necessary to correct bone position and ensure proper healing. During surgery, the displaced bone or bone portions will be reattached using plates, pins, screws, or a combination of these approaches. A patient will wear a cast for several weeks following surgery to ensure proper healing and recovery.

Recovery after Distal Radial Fracture Surgery

Following surgery for a radial distal fracture, patients will be asked to get ample rest and avoid strenuous physical activity. Follow-up visits will be scheduled in order to monitor recovery and to see if the bone is healing properly. Once the cast is off, physical therapy will be recommended to restore strength to the wrist and restore flexibility.

Contact The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery to learn more about distal radial fractures and the treatment options available.