Wrist Fractures

The wrist is made of the two forearm bones called the radius and the ulna, as well as eight carpal bones at the base of the hand. There are multiple joints in the wrist that allow for normal motion, and fractures may occur in any of these bones. The severity of the injury depends on where the bone breaks, and the degree to which the function of the wrist is affected.

The University of Michigan hand surgery team is fellowship trained and specializes in the treatment of wrist fractures, from simple to complex. Our goal is to restore mobility and function of the wrist as soon as possible with minimal impact on the patient’s quality of life.

Risk Factors of Wrist Fractures

The most common wrist fracture is a radius fracture, in the larger of the two forearm bones. In fact, the radius is broken more often than any other bone in the arm. There are several factors that cause wrist fractures:

  • Falling onto an outstretched arm, especially from a standing position
  • A direct blow to the area, such as in a car accident
  • Osteoporosis can increase the probability of a wrist fracture in a fall. The risk is especially high in women 50 years or older and men 65 years or older, when osteoporosis is most likely to occur.

Symptoms of Wrist Fractures

A wrist fracture should be evaluated for immediate treatment, especially if there is an open wound, loss of color in the fingers and/or intense pain.

Common signs and symptoms of wrist fractures include:

  • Pain, swelling, bruising over the wrist
  • Deformity about the wrist, hanging in an odd or bent way
  • Limited motion of the wrist

Diagnosis of Wrist Fractures

Whether it takes place in an emergency room or office visit, a physical examination of the affected area is needed to diagnose a wrist fracture.

Additional imaging may also be needed to confirm the presence and extent of the injury:

  • X-ray: Images used to determine if fractures are present
  • CT Scan: May be needed to get a better detailed image of the fracture fragments

Treatment of Wrist Fractures

Treatment will depend on the bone fractured as well as the pattern of the fracture.  If the wrist is dislocated, it must be put back into place. Depending on the location and success of bone setting, the hand surgeon will determine if surgery is necessary.

Non-surgical treatment options require immobilization of the bone for 4-6 weeks:

  • Setting of the bone
  • Splint/cast

If the fracture is more complex, surgery may be required. Surgical options include:

  • Pinning of the bone
  • Fixing the bone with screws and plates

After treatment, therapy may be necessary to regain motion of the wrist and fingers.  Every patient and every fracture is different, and treatment is tailored accordingly. 

Hand Therapy and Rehabilitation for Wrist Fractures

Therapy for wrist fractures is provided on site at the University of Michigan’s Hand Program by our team of occupational and physical therapists under the direction of a trained hand therapist. Referrals to local providers can be arranged closer to home as a more convenient option for patients.

The ultimate goal of therapy and rehabilitation is the restoration and optimization of wrist function, renewed independence and improved overall quality of life. We offer treatment plans that are tailored to fit each patient’s condition, living and work requirements:

  • Non-surgical option: For patients who do not require surgery but would benefit from therapy.
  • Post-operative rehabilitation: To help patients as they recover from surgical procedures.

Contact Us / Make an Appointment

If you are considering treatment for a wrist fracture, the University of Michigan hand surgeons will guide you, from consultation to recovery, to the best procedures for your individual needs. Our hand surgeons have dual appointments in Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery with a specialization in Hand. Patients may be seen in the Orthopaedic Clinic or the Plastic Surgery clinic for treatment of hand conditions.

  • Orthopaedic Call Center, 734-936-5780
  • Plastic Surgery Hand Call Center, 734-998-6022

Michigan Medicine Comprehensive Hand Center

Our team of specialists at the Comprehensive Hand Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for a variety of hand problems. From arthritis injuries, to congenital hand conditions, to the most complex reconstruction, our hand specialists approach each case individually, with a specific plan designed to maximize the restoration of both form and function. Depending on the types of hand conditions our patients face, our physicians will help determine the best therapies or procedures to maximize hand functionality and normal hand appearances. Visit the Comprehensive Hand Center page to learn more about the program and to contact our hand specialists.