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Distal Radius Fracture

The radius and the ulna are the bones of the forearm.

The radius is the larger of the two bones. The end toward the wrist is called the distal end. A fracture of the distal radius occurs when the radius near the wrist breaks.

Distal radius fractures are very common. The radius is the most commonly broken bone in the arm.

Fracture usually occurs after a fall on an outstretched hand. It can also happen in a car accident, a bike accident, a skiing accident, and similar situations.

Sometimes, the ulna is also broken.


A broken wrist usually causes immediate pain, tenderness, bruising, and swelling and frequently, the wrist hangs in a classical ’dinner-fork’ deformity.


Diagnosis is confirmed by an X-ray of the wrist, it is important to understand the extent of the injury. Although the fracture almost always occurs about 1 inch from the end of the bone, there are a number of sub-types of injury.

  • A fracture that extends into the joint, is called an intra-articular fracture.
  • A fracture that does not extend into the joint is called an extra-articular fracture.
  • When a fractured bone breaks the skin, it is called an open fracture and
  • when a bone is broken into more than two pieces, it is called a comminuted fracture.

It is important to classify the type of fracture, because some are more difficult to treat than others.

Intra-articular fractures (fractures within the joints), open fractures (fractures that break through the skin), and comminuted fractures (fracture that shatter the bone into a lot of small pieces) are more difficult to treat than a simple closed fracture. These fractures will sometimes require ORIF.

Risk Factors

Osteoporosis (decreased density of the bones) can make a relatively minor fall result in a broken wrist. Many distal radius fractures in people older than 60 years of age are caused by a fall from a standing position. Good bone health is important for prevention , screening for osteoporosis after a wrist fracture should be discussed. In contrast, healthy bones can break if the force of the trauma is severe enough.

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