Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky
975 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028

Ulnar Styloid Process Fracture Treatments

Ulnar styloid process fractures are relatively common wrist injuries that can significantly affect one’s daily life. These fractures, although usually not as severe as others, require prompt attention and appropriate treatment to ensure proper healing and prevent long-term complications. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and a range of treatment options for ulnar styloid process fractures to help you understand and navigate this injury effectively.

Ulnar Styloid Process Fractures Explained

The ulnar styloid process is a small bony projection at the end of the ulna bone, one of the two bones in the forearm. Its function is vital in maintaining wrist stability and facilitating various wrist movements. Ulnar styloid process fractures typically occur due to traumatic events, such as falls on an outstretched hand or direct impacts to the wrist. These fractures are categorized by the type and severity of the injury, with avulsion fractures (where a tendon or ligament pulls off a small piece of bone) being one common type. Often distal radius ulnar joint stabilizing ligaments insert into the ulnar styloid.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Ulnar Styloid Process Fractures

Recognizing the symptoms of an ulnar styloid process fracture is the first step toward proper treatment. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, and limited wrist mobility. However, these symptoms can overlap with other wrist injuries, making an accurate diagnosis critical. 

Wrist surgeons such as Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky and Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky use physical examinations and imaging techniques like X-rays, CT scans, and MRI to confirm the presence of a fracture and determine its extent. Early diagnosis is key to effective treatment. Contact HandSport Surgery Institute today if you think you have an Ulnar Styloid Process Fracture. 

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Ulnar Styloid Process Fractures

In many cases, ulnar styloid process fractures can be effectively managed without wrist surgery. Non-surgical treatments are generally the first line of defense:

  • Immobilization: One of the primary goals of treatment is to immobilize the wrist to allow the fractured bone to heal properly. This is typically achieved using splints or casts. The duration of immobilization depends on the type and severity of the fracture.
  • Pain Management: Fractures can be painful. Wrist surgeons may recommend over-the-counter pain medications or prescribe stronger pain relief options to help manage discomfort during the healing process.
  • Rest and Home Care: Resting the affected wrist and following home care instructions are crucial components of non-surgical treatment. Applying ice to reduce swelling and elevation to minimize pain are commonly recommended practices.

Ulnar Styloid Process Fractures Surgical Treatment Options

While many ulnar styloid process fractures heal well with non-surgical methods, wrist surgery may be necessary in certain situations:

  • Indications for Surgery: Surgical intervention is typically considered in cases of severely displaced fractures, fractures associated with other wrist injuries, or instances where non-surgical treatments have not yielded the desired results. Nonunions may occur causing distal radius joint instability and pain.
  • Surgical Procedures: Surgeons may employ various techniques for treating ulnar styloid process fractures, including:
  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): This surgical procedure involves making an incision to access the fractured bone. The wrist surgeon then realigns the fragments and uses screws, plates, or wires to stabilize them. ORIF is often employed for more complex fractures.
  • Arthroscopic Surgery: In some cases, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques can assist in the reduction (realignment) of fractured bones and repair ligaments. This involves using a small camera and specialized instruments inserted through tiny incisions.

Ulnar Styloid Process Fractures Recovery and Occupational Therapy

Whether treated surgically or non-surgically, the road to recovery after an ulnar styloid process fracture is typically divided into several stages:

  • Post-Treatment Care: Following the prescribed treatment plan is essential. This includes wearing casts or splints, taking medications as directed, and following instructions for home care.
  • Occupational Therapy: Rehabilitation plays a vital role in regaining wrist strength and mobility. An occupational therapist will work with the patient to develop a tailored plan that may include exercises and functional activities aimed at restoring wrist function.

Potential Complications From Ulnar Styloid Process Fracture Treatments

While ulnar styloid process fractures are generally less severe than other wrist fractures, complications can arise:

  • Malunion: Improper healing, resulting in misalignment of the fracture fragments.
  • Nonunion: When the fracture fails to heal adequately, leading to ongoing pain and dysfunction.
  • Chronic Pain: Some individuals may experience lingering wrist pain or stiffness.

It’s important to follow the post-op plans of your orthopedic wrist surgeon, and also your occupational therapist in order to avoid any potential complications.This includes regular follow-up appointments and adherence to treatment and rehabilitation protocols which can help identify and address these complications. 

Ulnar Styloid Process Fracture Prevention and Risk Reduction

Preventing ulnar styloid process fractures, especially in high-risk activities, is possible:

  • Protective Measures: Wear appropriate wrist protection, such as wrist guards, when participating in activities with a higher risk of wrist injuries, like sports or manual labor.
  • Technique Matters: Learn and practice proper techniques and ergonomics in activities that involve the wrist.
  • Safe Environment: Maintain a safe environment to minimize the risk of falls or accidents that could result in wrist injuries.
  • Rest and Strengthening: Allow for adequate rest during repetitive tasks, and engage in exercises that strengthen wrist and forearm muscles to reduce the risk of injury.

Do You Think You Have an Ulnar Styloid Process Fracture?

If you suspect a wrist injury, consult Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky or Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky at HandSport Surgery Institute for accurate diagnosis and guidance on the best treatment approach.

Ulnar styloid process fractures, though often less severe than other wrist fractures, require timely and appropriate treatment to ensure optimal recovery and minimize long-term complications. Early diagnosis is crucial, and treatment options range from non-surgical methods like immobilization and pain management to surgical procedures such as ORIF or arthroscopic surgery. 

Rehabilitation and adherence to treatment plans play a vital role in regaining wrist function. Remember that prevention is key, and protective measures can significantly reduce the risk of ulnar styloid process fractures.