Published: Nov. 11, 2010
Updated: Nov. 11, 2010
The wrist is made up of two bones in the lower arm, the radius and ulna, plus the small bones of the hand. When a bone in the wrist breaks, this is called a wrist fracture or broken wrist.
Wrist fractures are extremely common, especially in children, who are typically physically active, and the elderly, who commonly have lower bone density and symptoms of osteoporosis as they age.
Wrist fractures can occur during common traumas, such as slips and falls. The force of the impact creates pressure on the bone, which causes fracture.
The most common wrist fracture occurs when a person extends an arm to break a fall. The hand and forearm absorb the weight and force from the fall, and one of the wrist bones breaks.
Symptoms of a wrist fracture include:
A doctor's physical examination of the wrist will assist with diagnosis, focusing on pain, range of motion, and possible deformity. Often symptoms of wrist fracture are confused with those of a sprain (injury to hand ligaments). X-ray imaging of the injured area will confirm if the injury is a fracture.
Often wrist fractures are treated with a cast. If bones are out of proper placement, your doctor may have to reset the fracture, realigning the broken wrist using specific maneuvers. Some light sedation or local anesthesia may be used if this is necessary.
Medicine may be prescribed to manage any pain.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to keep pieces of bone together for proper healing. Surgeons often use metal plates, screws, and pins to help keep bones aligned.
Duke Orthopaedics treats wrist fracture at locations throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.