A fall from a standing height can result in a break of the wrist bone called the Distal Radius. This break of the wrist (fracture) is the most common break of the human body. These fractures can result from falls or car accidents. In the elderly, they typically result after a simple fall on an outstretched hand.

A 71-year old female patient recently presented to our clinic after a fall at work. She complained of wrist pain. She went to an urgent care facility after the injury and x-rays there showed a distal radius fracture. A splint was applied and she was referred to our office for treatment. She had a lot of pain, swelling and could not move the wrist. Dr. Patel examined her immediately. She had the typical “dinner fork” (shape) wrist deformity. X-rays showed the classic wrist fracture known as the Colles’ fracture. In this fracture, the break causes part of the bone to bend backwards but does not enter the joint.

Distal radius fractures can come with a wound or the break can go into the joint. A fracture that connects to a wound is a true emergency that needs surgery the same day. Surgeons do this because it helps prevent an infection from going into the bone. Closed distal radius fractures (without a wound) should receive treatment within one week for optimal results.

There are several treatment options for the distal radius fractures. These can range from pushing on the fracture and casting to various surgical techniques. All methods attempt to properly align the broken pieces of bone.

When making a decision of how to treat a specific fracture, several factors come into play. 1. Age of the patient. 2. The pattern of the broken pieces. 3. Does the patient smoke? 4. Job of the patient? 5. Medical problems of the the patient? 6. What other injuries happened at the same time?

This patient required surgery. Her distal radius fracture was fixed with a special plate and screws. This technique is known as an Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF). She did well after surgery. She started with exercises at home right after surgery. She continued to make excellent progress with motion and quickly lost all pain. Dr. Patel then referred her to a hand therapist to start gradual strengthening exercises. The patient now has a full range of motion and excellent grip strength. She is back to work and can to do all of her activities at work and home.