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.

  • Experience. Each year, Mayo Clinic doctors treat more than 1,000 people with all types of wrist fractures. Mayo hand surgeons have extensive experience treating broken wrists, including severe breaks.
  • Expertise. Mayo orthopedic doctors have special training in hand problems and have experience treating the complications that some people experience with wrist fractures. Orthopedic and rehabilitation specialists work together to diagnose your problem and determine the most effective treatment for you.
  • Research leader. Mayo Clinic researchers study innovative technology, devices and treatment options for wrist fractures.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are ranked high performing for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Specialists in hand surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation treat wrist fractures in adults.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Specialists in hand surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation treat wrist fractures in adults.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Specialists in hand surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation treat wrist fractures in adults and children.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic researchers are studying ways to improve wrist fracture treatment, including surgical techniques that can help restore full use of the wrist and fingers. Specific areas of interest include use of a vascularized bone graft to treat scaphoid fractures that haven't healed properly, imaging methods to guide surgery and the use of volar plating versus pins to stabilize a broken wrist. Mayo scientists are also studying risk factors for broken wrists in specific groups, including postmenopausal women and people with diabetes.

Scientists in Mayo's Biomechanics and Motion Analysis Laboratories also are active in a number of areas of hand and wrist research.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo authors on wrist fracture treatment on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Oct. 07, 2011