Wrist fractures might involve the inferior end of one or both of the forearm bones or less often, a bone in the base of the hand. The wrist is comprised of – 2 long bones in the forearm (radius and ulna) and 8 small-sized bones at the base of the hand (carpal bones). The carpal bones are situated in between the forearm bones and the bones of the hand.
Various forms of wrist fractures
Lower forearm fractures
The wrist fractures typically involve the bigger forearm bone or radius. Oftentimes, the smaller bone or ulna is also damaged.
- Colles fracture – the wrist is damaged when an individual fall on an extended hand with the wrist bent backwards. The radius is damaged close the wrist and the broken end of the radius is displaced upwards towards the back of the hand.
- Smith fracture – the wrist is fractured from a fall with the hand bent forward. The damaged end of the radius is displaced downwards, toward the palm side of the wrist.
What are the indications?
The wrist is swollen, painful and tender. If the median nerve is damaged, the tip of the index finger is numb and the individual has difficulty pinching the thumb and little finger together.
In most cases of wrist fractures, the doctor will realign the broken pieces without surgery. Before the realigning, the doctor might perform the following to prevent pain:
- Hematoma block
- Medication that makes the individual fall asleep
The scaphoid fractures usually involve a bone in the wrist close to the base of the thumb. The scaphoid bone is typically damaged at the 8th wrist bone, positioned between the bones of the forearm and the hand.
Scaphoid fractures typically result from a fall on an extended hand. These fractures often result to issues since they disrupt the blood supply to the scaphoid bone. Without blood supply, the bone might not heal and even deteriorate and eventually collapse.
What are the indications?
The thumb side of the wrist is usually swollen and tender. Rotating the wrist can trigger intense pain.
How is it diagnosed
If an individual suspect that he/she has a fractured wrist, a doctor should be consulted. A scaphoid fracture is diagnosed based on the symptoms and the results of a physical examination. An X-ray is taken but these wrist fractures might be hard to see after an injury.
In case the X-ray does not reveal the wrist fractures, MRI is required to detect one or CT scan is done. In some cases, the doctor might manage the injury as a fracture and place a thumb spica splint.
When a diagnosis is confirmed, most wrist fractures are effectively managed using a cast that is worn for up to 8 weeks. Oftentimes, surgery is needed to realign and immobilize the broken pieces. Remember that the bone might take 3-4 months to fully heal.