Wrist fractures are the most commonly broken bones in patients under 65 years of age.
Wrist fractures occur by any strong force pushing the hand backwards such as often happens in vehicle accidents. A strong force pushing the hand into the forearm can also cause a Colles fracture which often involves a break of the radius bone which has a natural weak spot where it widens.
Wrist arthritis may occur following a distal radius fracture which can be the result of cartilage injury at the time of the break or wear and tear from changes in the joint alignment after the bone is healed.
A common development following a Colles fracture is a change in the contour of the back of the wrist due to the bone healing in a tipped back position which often looks worse than it feels.
The treatment decision is very complex as consideration must be given to the exact nature of your fracture, your age, and your activity level. The nature of the fracture relates to the current alignment of your bones (what position they are in) and whether or not that alignment is acceptable. If it is acceptable, then you will probably have cast applied.
If the fracture involves the cartilage of the wrist joint then surgery may be more likely. There are several options for treatment. Some fractures may be secured with pins to hold the fragments in place or plates and screws may be used to position the fracture properly. Surgery can usually be performed any time in the first two weeks after a fracture.
Most patients return to normal recreation and work activities, and most do not have permanent pain. The most limiting fracture type is a comminuted, intra-articular fracture, and these patients will have the greatest amount of stiffness, may have pain, and are at risk of developing arthritis. Extra-articular fractures usually do not develop arthritis.
Regardless of treatment type, complete recovery takes a surprisingly long time – six to twelve months is typical. Pain and loss of grip strength can result but three out of four patients on average have a satisfactory result following fracture.