If you’ve fractured a bone, the odds are one in ten that it was your wrist. Virtually anyone can take a tumble and wind up with a fractured wrist. Elderly men and women with low bone density are particularly vulnerable because of fragile bones. Younger, more active individuals are also at risk due to a propensity to engage in more dangerous activities such as skiing or contact sports.
Wrist fractures are common, and treatment can often be complex, depending on the nature of the break. Respected hand surgeon Dr. Joseph Khouri has extensive experience in treating even the most complicated cases. His expertise includes hand, wrist, and upper extremity problems, microsurgery and reconstructive surgery.
If you seek an experienced surgeon you can trust, call our office today at 440-446-8600. Dr. Khouri serves Cleveland and nearby areas in Ohio.
What Is a Wrist Fracture?
A wrist fracture is simply a medical term for a broken wrist. The wrist comprises eight small bones that connect with two forearm bones, the radius and ulna. While a wrist fracture can occur in any of these ten bones, the most common break involves the radius. This is known as a distal radius fracture.
Wrist fractures can be stable or unstable, displaced or non-displaced. In a non-displaced fracture, the bones do not move out of place and can be stable. A displaced fracture means the bones must be adjusted back into alignment (this is called “setting” or reduction”). Once set, displaced breaks can sometimes be stable enough to treat with a splint or cast. In an unstable break, even if the bones are re-aligned and a cast is placed, the bones can shift into a poor position before properly healing, causing the wrist to appear crooked.
Wrist fractures vary in severity. Breaks that shatter into multiple pieces (comminuted fractures) or damage the smooth surface of the wrist joint may make the bone unstable. These severe breaks usually require surgery to restore and maintain bone alignment. Open (compound) fractures occur when a piece of broken bone pierces through the skin, causing increased risk of infection.
How Do You Know Your Wrist is Fractured?
Just as the severity of wrist fractures can vary, so too can the signs and symptoms of a broken wrist. These symptoms can include:
- Decreased use of hand and wrist
- Wrist may appear crooked or deformed
- Sensation of tingling fingers or numb fingertips
- Bone pushing through the skin (compound fracture)
In some cases, you may still be able to move or use your hand or wrist even if a bone is broken. Physical exams and x-rays are typically performed to diagnose fractures. MRIs or CT scans are sometimes needed to obtain details about broken fragments and related injuries. Nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments may also be damaged and require treatment.
Wrist Fracture Treatment
Wrist fracture treatment is based on a number of factors, including:
- Type of fracture (displaced, compound, unstable)
- Presence of other injuries
- Your overall general health
- Your age, activity level, job, hobbies, and whether you damaged your dominant hand
Wrist fracture treatment can be incredibly complex; it requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced hand surgeon. Dr. Khouri will customize your treatment to meet your unique needs, depending on the nature of your fracture and other determining factors.
Generally, treatment options for a broken wrist may include:
- Cast or splint: These are typically worn for five to six weeks, followed by physical therapy to restore range of motion and build strength.
- Surgery: This may be performed to fix the break and often involves the use of pins to hold the bone in place. After the procedure, a splint or cast is worn for several weeks, followed by physical therapy.
- Reconstructive surgery: Plates and screws are used to repair damaged bone. A cast is worn for two to three weeks before a transition to a removable brace. Physical therapy is then required.
How Long Does It Take for a Wrist Fracture to Heal?
Recovery times vary greatly, depending on the injury’s severity, subsequent nerve, muscle, or tendon damage, and other factors. It is not uncommon for recovery periods to last months. Even then, some patients may continue to experience aching or stiffness. Arthritis may develop if the surface of the joint was significantly injured. Additional surgery or treatment is occasionally necessary.
Contact us Today
If you’ve broken your wrist, it’s important to seek treatment immediately. Contact Dr. Khouri today online or at 440-446-8600. We welcome patients from throughout Ohio, including Cleveland and other nearby areas.