Distal Radius Fracture
(Fracture, Distal Radius; Distal Radius Fracture; Transverse Wrist Fracture; Dinner-Fork Deformity of the Wrist)
A Colle's fracture is a break in the distal part of the radius bone. The radius is one of the bones of the forearm. The distal end of the bone is considered part of the wrist. Distal radius fractures are categorized by type:
- Open fracture—a broken bone that breaks through the skin
- Comminuted fracture—a bone that breaks into more than two pieces
- Intra-articular fracture—a broken bone within a joint
- Extra-articular fracture—a broken bone that does not involve the joint
Intra-articular Colle's Fracture
This sheet focuses on fracture of the distal radius. Fractures of other wrist bones can be found on a separate sheet.
A distal radius fracture can be caused by:
- A fall on an outstretched hand
- A direct blow to the wrist
Factors that can increase your risk of breaking your radius bone include:
Symptoms may include:
- Arm or wrist pain
- Severe pain with movement
- Trouble moving your wrist or arm
- Wrist appears out of line
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images will usually be taken of your wrist or arm. This can be done with an x-ray.
After you are diagnosed, you may be referred to a specialist. An orthopedist focuses on bones.
It takes 6-10 weeks for a fracture of the radius at the wrist to heal. The type of treatment you receive depends on where your bone is broken and how serious the break is.
Some fractures require a reduction. This means the doctor realigns the bones before healing begins. Reductions can be done by the doctor putting your bone fragments into position by moving your arm or through surgery.
Your doctor may choose to treat the fracture using a cast. Your cast may be removed after a few weeks and replaced if it loosens. Most casts are removed at about six weeks.
In other cases, a splint or a soft bandage may be used instead of a cast. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.
A distal radius fracture sometimes requires surgery. The surgeon first realigns the bones during an operation. Then, any of the following may be used to hold the bones together as they heal:
- A plate and screws
- An external device that holds the inside pins together
You may be given a splint to wear after surgery to keep your arm from moving too much.
To help reduce your chance of fracturing your radius bone, take the following steps:
- Consider wearing a wrist guard when you play sports that put you at risk, such as in-line skating.
- Keep your muscles strong to prevent falls.
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Distal radius fracture. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00412. Updated March 2013. Accessed September 10, 2013.
Distal radius fracture. DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 24, 2013. Accessed September 10, 2013.
5/6/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Kropman RH, Bemelman M, Segers MJ, Hammacher ER. Treatment of impacted greenstick forearm fractures in children using bandage or cast therapy: a prospective randomized trial. J Trauma. 2010;68(2):425-428.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.