Fractures of the distal radius are the most common fracture in adults and are typically caused by a fall on the outstretched hand.
This injury may be accompanied by fractures of the ulnar styloid, the distal ulna, and the scaphoid. Isolated scaphoid fractures can also occur and should be considered in the differential of a patient with radial-sided wrist pain after a fall on their hand.
Non-displaced fractures do not have any deformity and are treated with immobilisation in a splint or cast.
Displaced fractures usually present with a "dinner fork" deformity and require closed reduction and possible surgical fixation. Successfully reduced fractures can be treated non-surgically with immobilisation and radiographic monitoring. However, there is debate and increasing evidence that patients with displaced distal radius fractures may benefit from open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). For the first six months, patient-related outcomes were superior compared with conservative treatment. Therefore, a shared decision approach between patient and surgeon is recommended.
Malunion of inadequately reduced fractures may result in decreased range of motion and grip strength, as well as pain, in younger, higher-demand patients.
Purely ligamentous injuries can be a cause of wrist pain after a fall on an outstretched hand in the setting of normal radiographs.
Wrist fractures include fractures that affect the distal ends of the radius, ulna, and carpus. Fractures of the distal radius (DRF) are one of the most common injuries. The distal radius is defined as the distal one third of the radius. DRFs may be extra-, intra-, or partial articular and are regularly accompanied with an ulnar styloid fracture.
Fractures associated with a radiographic appearance that is essentially normal with respect to extra- and intra-articular anatomy are considered non-displaced. All other fractures - that is, all fractures with loss of anatomical contours - are considered to be displaced. Clearly, all displacements are not the same and some fractures are certainly associated with greater anatomical deformity than others. Fractures associated with an open wound are considered open fractures.
History and exam
Trauma, Hand and Wrist Surgeon
Department of Trauma and Hand Surgery
NWLS is an author of several references cited in this topic. He is a consultant for Synthes, Medartis, and Arthrex, and has received honoraria from The AO Foundation for teaching courses.
Dr Niels W.L. Schep would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Jeffrey N. Lawton, Dr John R. Lien, Dr Gregory D. Byrda, Dr Tamara D. Rozental, and Dr Chaitanya S. Mudgal, previous contributors to this topic.
Program Director of Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Thomas Jefferson University
AI declares that he has no competing interests.
Associate Professor of Orthopaedics
Hand Surgery Section
Department of Orthopaedics
Hässleholm and Kristianstad Hospitals
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