Wrist fractures may be located in one of the two forearm bones, most commonly in the radius, or in one of the eight carpal bones. Although there are many different types of fracture that may occur in this area, such as scaphoid and ulna fractures, the term “wrist fracture” typically refers to breaks in the end of the radius bone. This is one of the most common types of broken bones, particularly in children, adolescents and adults under the age of 65. When adults reach the age of 65, weakened bones from osteoporosis make hip fractures the most common type of broken bone. Even with the high number of such fractures in elderly patients, however, a wrist fracture still accounts for 1 out of 6 cases of fracture reported in American emergency rooms.
Anatomy of the Wrist
The wrist may refer to the eight bones that form the carpus (the connecting point between the forearm and hand), or it may refer to the joint between the carpus and the radius (one of two long forearm bones), or it may refer to the area around the carpus. A distal radius fracture is most often referred to as a wrist fracture, because of the radius’ proximity to the wrist in the forearm, whereas a broken carpel bone is often referred to as a carpal fracture. There are technically 10 bones that form the wrist. The first two are the radius and ulna (the two long forearm bones) and then there are those eight carpal bones:
In addition to the eight carpal bones that connect the forearm and the hand, there are also the distal ends of the ulna and radius (the two large forearm bones), and the proximal areas of the five metacarpal bones. If this complex network of bones and joints is not functioning properly, the mobility of the hand may be severely altered. The wrist bones make several very important hand movements possible:
Types of Wrist Fracture
There are many different types of wrist fractures, including radius or ulna fractures (the two long bones making up the forearm) and carpal fractures (the set of eight smaller bones making up the carpus). These wrist fractures are further divided into several subcategories, including the following:
Causes of Wrist Fracture
Serious impacts to the wrists or hands can cause wrist fractures in which any number of bones may be broken. These are some of the most common wrist fracture causes:
Symptoms of Wrist Fracture
The most common wrist fracture symptoms include the following:
If you have injured your wrist and feel any sort of pain in this area, it’s important to seek medical treatment, even if the pain does not seem intense enough to be a fracture. Everyone experiences wrist fracture symptoms differently, and every injury requires an individualized treatment plan to ensure successful rehabilitation. Only with careful review of x-ray images by a trained medical professional can you truly tell whether the wrist is broken, and whether the fracture is stable or unstable, in which case surgery may be required. In most cases, however, a cast can be used to treat stable wrist fractures, and medical professionals can often reset an unstable fractured wrist while the patient is sedated or while local anesthesia has been applied.
All wrist fractures are different. Several factors will determine the most appropriate course of action for each specific patient, such as:
A physician can assess whether non-surgical treatments such as casting and resetting could be or have been successful, and whether surgery will be required to reposition the bones. With immediate medical treatment from trained professionals and ongoing maintenance, however, full rehabilitation is possible for most wrist fractures.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Trauma Services in New York treats Wrist Fractures as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones within the body.