A broken wrist (wrist fracture) can involve a fracture of any of the small carpal bones in the wrist, or the ends of the forearm bones — the radius and the ulna. Wrist fracture treatment is a splint, cast or surgery, depending on the severity of the break. Rehabilitation therapy is usually needed.

Read more about wrist fractures.

About

Some wrist fractures cause no visible swelling or deformity and may go undetected. But an untreated wrist fracture can cause serious complications. It's important to seek medical care if you have wrist pain after an injury or fall.

A broken wrist bone that is likely to stay in a correct position while healing (stable fracture) often can be treated with a splint or cast. Complex fractures usually require surgery. At Mayo Clinic, some of these surgeries use minimally invasive techniques.

Distal radius fracture (Colles' fracture)

Distal radius fracture is the most common type of broken wrist. It occurs near the end of a lower arm bone (radius) close to the wrist.

Distal radius fracture often can be treated with a bone-straightening procedure and a cast. At Mayo Clinic, the straightening procedure may be done in the operating room, emergency room or doctor's office. You will need follow-up X-rays for up to 12 weeks to assess the bone's healing.

Severe distal radius fractures may need surgery. The options include:

  • Wires, plates or screws that can be surgically implanted to realign the wrist bones and to allow for movement of the fingers and wrist.
  • A palm-side (volar) fixed-angle plate that can allow you to resume many normal daily activities while the fracture heals.
  • A set of metal bars outside the skin but connected to the bone that can provide stability as the bone heals. Additional pins or bone grafts are often used to improve stability.

Scaphoid fracture

The scaphoid bone is located on the thumb side of the wrist. A scaphoid fracture can go undiagnosed because the only symptom may be pain at the base of the thumb. Untreated, a scaphoid fracture can lead to wrist arthritis, pain and decreased grip strength.

Mayo surgeons have experience repairing advanced scaphoid fractures with a vascularized bone graft. That surgery involves inserting a piece of bone (graft), with its blood supply, transplanted from elsewhere in the body.

Follow-up care

At Mayo Clinic, rehabilitation is an important part of wrist fracture treatment. The goal is to restore the strength and range of motion in your wrist and fingers and to ease stiffness. Mayo specialists also can help manage osteoporosis or other conditions that helped cause your bone damage.

Oct. 07, 2011