Overview on distal radius fractures

It is important to note that the radius is the larger of the two bones that comprises the forearm. The end part toward the wrist is called as the distal end. A distal radius fracture typically occurs once the area of the radius close to the wrist breaks. Remember that distal radius fractures are quite common. In reality, the radius is the commonly affected bone in the arm during injuries. To learn to recognize and manage bone, muscle and joint injuries, including fractures, signup for first aid course with Vancouver first aid today.

What is a distal radius fracture?

When it comes to a distal radius fracture, it typically occurs about an inch away from the end of the bone. The break can occur in various ways though. A common form is the Colles fracture in which the broken bone fragment tilts in an upward manner. There are also other ways in which the distal radius breaks which includes the following:

Distal radius fracture

The prevalent cause of a distal radius fracture is falling onto an outstretched arm.

  • Extra-articular fracture does not extend into the joint
  • Intra-articular fracture extends into the wrist joint
  • Open fracture involves a break in the skin
  • Comminuted fracture occurs when the bone is broken into two pieces

What are the usual causes?

The prevalent cause of a distal radius fracture is falling onto an outstretched arm. Certain conditions such as osteoporosis can contribute to a broken wrist when the individual accidentally falls. Most cases of the fracture among the elderly are caused by falling from a standing position.

Even though who have healthy bones can end up with a distal radius fracture if the force of trauma is substantial especially during vehicular accidents or falling off a bike. Maintaining good bone health is a vital preventive measure and the use of wrist guards can prevent some fractures, but not all.


  • Immediate pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity of the wrist

Diagnosing a distal radius fracture

In case the injury does not cause pain and the wrist is not deformed, it is possible to wait until the next day to consult a doctor. The wrist should be protected with a splint and an ice pack must be applied over the wrist and elevated until a doctor can assess it carefully. In case the injury is sore or the wrist is deformed or numb or the fingers are not pink in color, it is vital to bring the individual to the emergency department.

The doctor will request an X-ray of the wrist. An X-ray is commonly used to diagnose the condition. An X-ray will reveal if the bone is broken or whether there is displacement as well as show the number of broken bones.


The treatment of a distal radius fracture involves putting back the bones in place and preventing them from moving out of place until fully healed. The choice depends on various factors such as the nature of the fracture, activity level, age and preference of the doctor.

If the broken bone is in good position, a plaster cast can be applied until the bone heals. In case the position is out of place, it would require the realignment of the bone. Reduction is the procedure performed in which the doctor moves the broken bone into place. Once the bone is straightened without opening the skin, it is called as closed reduction.