Dr. Gregg Vagner explains wrist fracture types, symptoms, and treatments, including surgery. Wrist fractures are common because sufferers tend to stretch out their hands to break a fall, often injuring or breaking the wrist bones. Dr. Vagner may recommend surgical or nonsurgical wrist fracture treatment, depending on the extent of the injury.
Wrist fractures are some of the most common fractures that I see. They occur most often when you fall onto an outstretched hand, which is your normal tendency when you fall down. Oftentimes, the forces can be so severe that they cause a fracture or break in the bone. Sometimes this can cause the bone to move away from what's normal. We refer to these fractures as distal radius fractures. Distal means away from the body and radius refers to the bone that's broken.
Patients with wrist fractures often complain of swelling and pain around the wrist. Sometimes the swelling can be so bad that it causes numbness in the fingers. A lot of times, I'll hear patients say, "I can move my wrist and fingers. So I can't have a wrist fracture." That couldn't be further from the truth. The only way to properly diagnose a wrist fracture is with an x-ray. If the x-ray shows that your bones are in normal alignment, then you might be treated in a splint or cast for four to six weeks. If the x-ray shows that your bones are out of alignment, then surgery may be necessary.
Surgery for wrist fractures begins with an incision on the wrist here. This is taking down to the bone where the fracture is encountered. We then place the fracture back in a more normal alignment and put a plate and screws on to hold it in place. The purpose of the plate and screws is to hold the bone in a more normal alignment. At that point, the bone heals itself. After the fracture heals, the plate and screws are no longer necessary. A lot of times I have patients ask me if I can remove the plate. Removing the plate would require another surgery. So I normally don't recommend it. After your surgery, you're placed in a postoperative splint for two weeks. Then, you are placed in a splint or cast for another two to four weeks. After a full four to six weeks from the surgery, we begin range of motion of the wrist. And your total recovery time depends on the severity of your fracture.
I hope this video helps your understanding of wrist fractures. If you have any questions, feel free to contact your local orthopedic surgeon.