When discussing distal radial fractures, it’s helpful to define the terms because this particular injury, while fairly common, is quite specific. The radius, the larger of the two forearm bones, connects at the wrist on the side of the thumb. The distal portion of the radius is the part closest to the wrist joint. And a fracture, of course, is a breaking of the bone, which in this case, often occurs due to a fall onto an outstretched hand or during an accident of some kind. With the terms defined, we can begin to offer more specific information on the injury itself as well as the distal radial fracture procedure.
About the Injury
Nearly 250,000 fractured radius bones are treated annually in the U.S. That makes this injury one of the most common kinds of fractures seen by orthopedic physicians. In fact, it is estimated that it makes up about 70% of all fractures. This particular kind of break was first described in 1814 by an Irish surgeon with the last name Colles’. For this reason, distal radial fractures are often referred to as Colles’ fractures.
Causes: Traumatic injuries are the most common cause of distal radius fractures. Patients with osteoporosis are at higher risk of fracture due to their weak bones. With bone density compromised, a single fall can break and displace the radius. Women - and particularly women over the age of 50 - are especially susceptible to the onset of osteoporosis and therefore are more commonly treated for wrist fractures.
Symptoms: Immediate pain and tenderness are usually the first symptoms. Patients also often report swelling, bruising and in some cases, deformity if the bone is displaced. It is recommended that any patient whose hand becomes numb or whose fingers turn white should seek emergency care right away.
Treatment: Because the degree of severity can range based on where and in how many places the bone is broken, as well as the position of the bone, there are also varying approaches to treatment. Not every patient needs to undergo a surgical distal radial fracture procedure, but a physician will be able to assess the fracture and determine the best treatment plan.
Some of the criteria that help determine a physician’s decision, include:
- Patient’s age
- Patient’s activity level and occupation
- Bone density
- Impact to the wrist joint
- Associated injuries (to the ulna or the medial nerve)
How to Avoid Having a Distal Radial Fracture Procedure
Although not every fracture of the distal radius is connected to a problem with bone density, this kind of injury is often the first sign of developing osteoporosis.
So while you may not be able to prevent a future fall, you can adjust what you eat, how you supplement your diet and the general lifestyle you choose to live now in order to prevent osteoporosis in the long run. Preventing bone loss is one of the best ways to avoid ever having to have distal radial fracture surgery.
- Check Calcium Intake: Eating a balanced diet that includes dairy, dark leafy greens and fish can help towards a goal of getting 1,000 - 1,200 mg per day. In addition, look for foods that are calcium-fortified and consider a high quality supplement to make up the difference of whatever you are not getting in your diet.
- Consider the Role of Vitamin D: Calcium is not properly absorbed by the body without the right intake of vitamin D as well. Sunlight is actually a great source of this important vitamin, but many people do not get access to enough direct sunlight and need to supplement or adjust their diet in order to get the recommended 600-800 international units per day.
- Take Time to Exercise: In addition to making nutritional changes, an effort to avoid osteoporosis also involves making lifestyle adjustments. Take at least 20 minutes per day to focus specifically on weight bearing exercises that will increase muscle strength and, in turn, also preserve bone density.
Why Rothman Institute?
If you do find yourself suffering from symptoms of what you think may be a fracture to your distal radius, it’s important that you know who to call. When it comes to the wrist subspecialty, Rothman Institute boasts an entire team of renowned surgeons
, who have extensive experience, particularly in treating fractures in the aging population. If you’re experiencing the pain, tenderness, swelling or deformity that you believe may require a distal radial fracture procedure, call Rothman Institute today to set up an appointment. You can reach us at 1-800-321-9999.