Tag Archive for: broken wrist

Distal Radius Fracture

A distal radius fracture, often known as a “broken wrist, ” can result in complications that can have long-lasting effects if not treated immediately by an orthopedic specialist. There are two types of distal radius fractures, and one can be an extremely painful and serious injury. Your first and safest start to treatment would be to see one of the experienced surgeons at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


The radius is one of two forearm bones and is located on the thumb side. The part of the radius connected to the wrist joint is called the distal radius. When the radius breaks near the wrist, it is called a distal radius fracture. Distal radius fractures are a common presentation to emergency departments and urgent care centers and are among the most common injuries seen in an adult orthopedic practice. They account for 25% to 50% of all broken bones. Fractures occur primarily in young adults and people over age 65, with a high incidence in women over age 50.


Most wrist fractures are the result of a break in the radius bone at the radiocarpal joint—known as a distal radius fracture. The most common location for a distal radius fracture is about one inch from the wrist. The break can take place at different angles and unequal amounts of dislocation. The three prominent types of distal radius fractures are:

  • Colles Fracture. A Colles fracture may result from direct impact to the palm, like when using the hands to break up a fall and landing on the palms. The side view of a wrist after a Colles fracture is called a “dinner fork deformity” compared to the shape of a fork facing down. There is a distinct “bump” in the wrist similar to the neck of the fork. It happens because the broken’ end of the distal radius shifts up toward the back of the hand. Colles fractures represent about 90% of all distal fractures.
  • Smith’s Fracture. This is almost always caused by a strike or collision to the back of the wrist, as expected when falling backward or on a bent wrist. The end of the radius is displaced or angled in the direction of the palm of the hand. It accounts for about 5% of all radial and ulnar fractures combined.
  • Barton’s Fracture. The most common cause of this fracture is a fall on an outstretched wrist. It is a compression injury that extends well into the wrist joint. An MRI is often needed to rule out any damage to the ligaments or soft tissues at the wrist.

Read more about Distal Radius Fractures on our new Colorado Springs Orthopedic News Site – Colorado Springs Orthopedic News. Schedule an appointment with a wrist specialist today.

Ice and Snow Contribute to Falls, Broken Wrists

Colorado is notorious for fast-moving winter storms that quickly turn into sunny days. And while we all appreciate fast-melting snow, the constant melting and refreezing means plenty of icy walkways and streets, which can translate to lots of slips and falls, which can result in a broken wrist. When you’re out and about this winter, take care to watch for black ice – especially in the mornings before the temperatures heat up.

While there are many injuries that can come from slipping on ice, one of the most common is a broken wrist. It’s a natural reaction to reach out your arms to try to catch yourself, and that often results in a wrist fracture. It’s so common, in fact, that orthopedic specialists refer to this as a “FOOSH” which stands for Falling On Out-Stretched Hand.

Symptoms of a Wrist Fracture

If you fall on your hand or wrist, you’re likely to experience swelling, bruising, and pain to the touch, which could be the signs of a wrist fracture. If the break is severe, your hand or wrist may show visual signs of displacement, and a bone can even break the skin. If you have trouble moving your hand or fingers or your hand or wrist is numb, it’s a good idea to seek immediate treatment. Waiting not only delays your pain relief but can slow or impair the healing process and can impact long-term recovery.

If a bone does break the skin – called an open fracture – medical treatment should be sought immediately to minimize blood loss and the risk of infection.

The two bones in your arm that connect to the hand are the radius and the ulna. A radius fracture – specifically a distal radius fracture – is the most common type of break from FOOSH. Distal refers to the location of the break, toward the end of the radius, typically within an inch or two of the hand. While the ulna can break too, it’s far less common.

Treatment options for a broken wrist depend on the location of the break, or breaks, and the severity. A hand and wrist doctor will do a physical evaluation to evaluate swelling, mobility, and any displacement of bones. If a break is suspected, they will recommend an x-ray or a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating a Broken Wrist

The first priority is restoring the broken bone to its original position and keeping it there to allow for proper healing. A hand and wrist specialist will generally recommend a splint or cast to immobilize the joint, while severe breaks may require surgery to restore the bone position and maximize recovery. In some cases, a break can limit blood flow to the wrist or hand, which is serious. In this situation, emergency treatment is necessary to minimize tissue damage. If blood flow is interrupted for a period of time, bone tissue may die, and a bone graft may be needed as part of the reconstruction and healing process.

Your orthopedic surgeon will determine the right treatment plan for your situation with the goal of maximizing recovery while ensuring that the treatment plan is realistic for your level of health and other lifestyle factors.

If surgery is required, repair and stabilization may involve metal screws, pins or plates to reconnect bone fragments. Post-surgery, physical therapy is helpful in rebuilding range of motion and strength. Most people experience both stiffness and weakness post-surgery or after extended immobilization.

There are still several months of ice and snow ahead of us, so watch for icy sidewalks and wear sturdy rubber-soled shoes to minimize your risk of slipping. If you do fall on your hand or wrist, see a CCOE hand and wrist specialist to diagnose and treat your pain so you can get back to what you love. Schedule today.

Watch out for a FOOSH! Don’t let a broken wrist or ganglion cyst give you the winter blues

Being active in the winter is good for our mental and physical health, but don’t let bad luck sideline you with a fractured hand or broken wrist. These injuries are extremely common, especially in winter months when skiing, snowboarding or slipping on ice, can quickly lead to a Fall onto an outstretched hand – also known as “FOOSH” among orthopedic experts.

FOOSH tends to break the larger bone in your forearm, called the radius, which is also the bone most often broken in the arm. The end of the radius, closest to the hand, is known as the distal end, and not surprisingly, the most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a FOOSH.

When sustaining the weight of a fall, the wrist can fracture in many ways, and the break may extend into the wrist joint or be limited to the arm bone only.

Immediate signs of a wrist fracture include swelling, bruising, pain to the touch and visual deformity. The presence of numbness or difficulty moving fingers are also signs to seek immediate treatment. Time counts; delays can impair healing and limit future strength and range of motion.

Treatment options for a broken wrist are determined by the location of the break and its severity. Generally, joint immobilization (splinting or casting) and surgery are used to restore mobility, and physical therapy is employed to aid the recovery process and rebuild strength. If the fracture has interrupted blood flow to a wrist bone, a portion of the bone may die. In these cases, bone grafts and bone fusion may be used to aid healing.

Another very common cause of hand or wrist pain that spans the seasons is ganglion cysts.

If you have a lump in your hand or wrist, chances are it’s a ganglion cyst. These common and treatable fluid-filled sacs often appear on hand and wrist tendons or joints. Ganglion cysts are identified with medical assessment and most are easily treatable.

The cyst itself is generally painless, but the location of a ganglion cyst may impede hand or wrist movement or compress a corresponding nerve – which triggers pain on that nerve.

While these sacs can grow in a variety of joints on the bottom or the top of the wrist, they are most common on the top of the wrist. The size of the sac tends to grow with use and recede with inactivity.

Although ganglion cysts can present in a variety of patients, they are more prominent in females younger than 40 and in those who have high incidence or impact of wrist use. Cysts that develop on the finger (mucous cysts) tend to be associated with older patients and those with arthritis.

Ganglion cysts often clear on their own; however, some cysts require draining (aspiration) or removal (excision). During evaluation, an orthopedic specialist typically will assess the origin of the sac, its fluctuations in size, level of discomfort, and impact on mobility. The exam will reveal if the mass is fluid or a solid mass and identify if rest, draining, or removal offers the best outcome. They will also look at the patients’ history of arthritis and review current medications.

Aspiration offers relief from pain and addresses the visible appearance. But that relief may be temporary because, while the draining removes the fluid which comprises the cyst’s mass, the root sac remains. Excision (removal of the cyst) addresses this issue. Most patients find this outpatient procedure to be fairly simple and highly beneficial, and most can resume normal activities within two to six weeks. Physical therapy is frequently a part of successful recovery.

Wrist injuries and wrist pain don’t have to add to your winter blues, see a CCOE hand and wrist specialist to diagnose and treat your pain so you can get back to what you love. Schedule today.