Distal radius fractures are very common. The radius is one of the forearm bones, and the distal radius is the part of the radius at the wrist. The usual mechanism of injury is a fall onto an outstretched hand. It may also occur due to a car accident, a skiing accident, a bike accident and other sporting activities. It is a common fracture in older people with osteoporosis. In younger patients, common causes are a fall from a height or a fall from a bicycle or motorbike.
There are different types of fractures that may occur at the distal radius, depending on the direction of displacement when it breaks. These fractures are:
- Colles fracture – This is a fracture that results from a direct impact to the palm, such as breaking a fall with your hand by landing on your palm. This results in the end of the distal radius being broken and shifting upwards to the back of the hand. This distal radius fracture leads to the formation of a bump on the back of the wrist, which may look similar to the neck of a fork.
- Smith’s fracture – This is a less common fracture which may be a result of an impact to the back of the wrist, such as a falling on a bent wrist. This leads to the end of the distal radius, shifting down towards the palm. A Smith’s fracture normally results in a distinct drop in the
Symptoms include acute pain and swelling around the wrist. There may be a visible deformity if the fracture is displaced. Treatment mostly depends on whether the fracture is displaced or not. Fractures that are not displaced can usually be treated with the use of a brace or cast. If the fracture is displaced, then it may require either manipulation and cast, or surgical fixation with a plate, screws or a wire.