Losing traction on a slippery surface may cause a fall onto an outstretched hand. This can result in a specific type of wrist fracture called a distal radius fracture.
A distal radius fracture can be extremely painful. Unless it receives prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications.
What are the different types of distal radius fracture?
The radius is the larger of the two bones in the forearm, and the distal radius is the end that is closest to the hand. According to Relias Media, it is the most commonly broken bone in the wrist, especially among younger people.
According to OrthoInfo, a distal radius fracture can be intra-articular, meaning that it extends into the joint of the wrist, or extra-articular, meaning that it does not. Sometimes there is displacement, meaning that the broken fragment shifts out of alignment. A Colles fracture is a specific type of distal radius fracture that causes the broken fragment to displace in an upward-tilted direction. This causes a distinctive “dinner fork” deformity in which the hand and the wrist resemble a fork resting on the table with its tines pointing down.
What are the possible complications of a distal radius fracture?
A distal radius fracture, especially a Colles fracture, can cause injury to the median nerve. This can result in sensory symptoms and decreased motor function. Other possible complications include joint instability or malunion of the fracture, which occurs when the bone does not heal properly.
In many cases, it is possible to perform a closed reduction, requiring no incision, to put the fractured portion of bone back into its proper position. However, sometimes surgery is necessary to perform an open reduction of the broken fragment.