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Wrist Fractures: Broken Wrist

Wrist fractures, commonly known as a broken wrist, are a common type of wrist injury that can occur without a person knowing. A wrist fracture requires medical attention as letting it heal on its own risks improper healing, which can cause chronic conditions. The treatments available for fractures depend on the severity of the injury and the type of fracture that occurred.

What is a Broken Wrist?

A broken wrist can include a fracture in any of the ten bones in the wrist and is described in two categories:

  1. Non-displaced breaks: where the bone hasn’t moved out of place
  2. Displaced breaks: where the bone needs to be put back into its proper position.

The causes of fractures in a wrist include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Falls, such as when a person stretches out their hand before impact to try and stop the fall.
  • Sports injuries, such as falling or during contact sports like rugby or hockey.
  • Car accidents, many people stretch their arms out before impact which can cause the wrist bones to break.

Types of Wrist Fractures

The two most common types of wrist fractures that occur are

  • Distal Radius Fracture: the wrist is made up of two bones from the forearm, the radius, and the ulna with the radius being the larger of the two. A distal radius fracture is a break near the wrist end of the radius bone. Sometimes the ulna bone is broken along with the radius, which is known as a distal ulna fracture.
  • Scaphoid Fracture: The scaphoid is one of the carpal bones that form two rows of small round bones in the wrist and are located near the base of the thumb. This particular fracture of the wrist is the second most common and can be difficult to both identify and treat.

Other types of fractures that can occur, though are more uncommon, include:

  • Radial Styloid Fracture: also known as Chauffer’s Fracture, this occurs when the radial styloid is fractured and is usually caused by a direct hit to the radius.
  • A Barton’s Fracture: this is the distal radius fracture that includes dislocation of the wrist joint.
  • Ulnar Styloid Fracture: When the styloid is fractured, it usually occurs along with distal radius fractures.

Symptoms of a Bone Fracture in the Wrist

When a wrist fracture occurs, it isn’t always immediately clear that it has. There are symptoms and signs that help identify a fracture and indicate that a medical professional should be seen:

  • An obvious deformity, such as a bent wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising on the wrist
  • Swelling in the wrist
  • Severe pain that worsens when gripping, squeezing, or moving your hands or wrist.

It’s important to note that if there is difficulty moving fingers or numbness along with these symptoms, medical attention is needed as soon as possible. Delayed treatment can cause a decrease in the range of motion of the wrist and reduce the strength of the grip.

Wrist Fracture Treatments

The treatment for a wrist fracture depends on the severity and type. Below are the often recommended treatments by type of fracture:

  • A displaced break: when a bone within the wrist has moved out of place, requiring proper realignment and likely surgery.
  • A non-displaced break: A wrist break where the bone hasn’t moved out of its proper place.
  • An open fracture: When a bone from the wrist is protruding through the skin, causing a risk of bone infection.
  • Wrist shatter: the most severe type of break where one or more of the bones have shattered. This type of fracture requires surgery.

Wrist surgery can be recommended if the fracture is severe enough, but the usual treatments almost always include a splint or cast.

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