Wrist fracture after fall may need surgery to align bones and regain range of motion

Q. I was rollerblading with my daughter when I fell and landed on my left wrist. I had severe pain and had X-rays at the emergency room. The X-rays revealed a fractured wrist and the doctor said the bones were well positioned. I was splinted and told to see an orthopedic surgeon or upper extremity specialist.

The specialist agreed at first that the bones were in proper alignment and I was placed in a cast up to my elbow. He ordered a CT scan “just to be sure.” The doctor then told me that the fracture extended into my wrist joint and I needed surgery. Does this sound right to you as I really do not want surgery?

A. Fractures of the wrist from a fall usually involve the bone called the radius. If the fractured bones stay well aligned without displacement or angulation, the injury usually can be treated with a cast for four to six weeks followed by bracing and rehab to restore normal motion and function.

However, if the fractured bones do not align properly, then limited range of motion and pain can result without surgical intervention. This is particularly true if the displaced fracture extends into the wrist joint, which can result in further loss of motion and early arthritis.

The CT scan more accurately depicted the bony details than the X-rays, which is why the doctor likely changed the initial recommendations. The surgery usually involves aligning the bones anatomically and then stabilizing the fracture with a metal plate and screws. Once again, rehab is important post-op in obtaining an optimal result.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net

Dr. Harlan Selesnick
Dr. Harlan Selesnick