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What is a Radius Fracture?

A radius fracture, also known as a wrist fracture, is usually a break in the radius bone at the wrist. The radius is the larger of the two bones in the forearm. A fracture of the radius occurs when the radius end of the forearm near the wrist breaks. Radius fractures are among the most common types of wrist or fracture injuries. These injuries are common when falling onto an outstretched hand (FOOSH) in activities such as biking, basketball, in-line skating, or other high activity sports.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of a Radius Fracture

Pain, swelling, stiffness, and bruising in the wrist are all common for a fractured radius. Some fractures may present with deformity to and around the wrist area. Your hand surgeon will ask about any numbness to assess possible median and ulnar nerve injuries. Additionally, the wrist may be radially deviated due to a shortening of the radius bone during injury.

Common symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Deformity
  • Tenderness
  • Loss of motion in the wrist

Getting a Diagnosis for Radius Fractures

A diagnosis may be clinically evident in the case of deformity; however, it should always be confirmed by X-ray. Your surgeon may order a CT scan alongside an X-ray to investigate details of the articular anatomy of the fracture. If injury to the soft tissue is suspected, an MRI will help visualize the soft and ligamentous tissues for damage.

Treatment Options for Radius Fractures

Closed reduction is a common form of treatment for a radius fracture. Nonoperative management, external fixation, and internal fixation rely on different factors dependent on the age of the patient, the initial displacement of the fracture, assessment of metaphyseal and articular alignment. Complex fractures may indicate the need for surgical intervention.

Conservative Treatments

Most radius fractures are treated with conservative and nonoperative management. This will involve immobilization by way of splint or plaster cast. Patients with stable fractures following reduction are generally good candidates for nonoperative intervention. Simple fractures in which the pieces are in satisfactory alignment may be treated in a cast for 4-6 weeks.

Surgical Treatments

Surgery may be indicated in injuries with unstable fractures and those involving joint disruption. Surgical intervention often involves joint examination and reduction via arthroscopy and fixation with a metal plate with screws to properly align the fracture. Additional pins may be required for unstable or severe injuries. Ligamentous injuries will also be assessed and possibly repaired during this time.

Preventing Radius Fractures

Radius fractures are among the most common injuries to the wrist in a variety of sports and physical activities. For this reason, they may be difficult to prevent. However, correct falling techniques and protecting the wrists may prevent injury to the vital structures of the hand and wrist. Wearing appropriate safety gear during physical activity may also brace the area and protect it against acute physical trauma.

Prognosis for Radius Fractures

Simple fractures are expected to heal in 4-6 weeks following a period of rest and immobilization. Injuries that require surgery may need more immobilization with slow reintroduction of movement to the area through physical therapy. Your surgeon may decide to take periodic X-rays during the healing period to healing. After the completion of physical therapy, many patients can look forward to a full return of function and range of motion.

If You Believe You Have a Radius Fracture, Contact HandSport Surgery Institute.

Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team. People who have been hurt should be evaluated to try and prevent further injury and mobility issues.

If you have been injured, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment and obtain an accurate diagnosis.

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