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Broken Wrist

Broken Wrist

Definition

A wrist fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in the wrist. The wrist is made up of the two bones in the forearm called the radius and the ulna. It also includes 8 carpal bones. The carpal bones lie between the end of the forearm bones and the bases of the fingers. The most commonly fractured carpal bone is called the scaphoid or navicular bone.

This fact sheet will focus on fractures of the carpal bones of the wrist. Wrist fractures of the radius, often called Colles fracture, can be found on a separate sheet.

Scaphoid Fracture
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Causes

A wrist fracture is caused by trauma to the bones in the wrist. Trauma may be caused by:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • Direct blow to the wrist
  • Severe twist of the wrist

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the chance of a wrist fracture include:

  • Participating in contact sports, such as football or soccer
  • Participating in activities such as in-line skating, skateboarding, or bike riding
  • Participating in any activity which could cause a fall on an outstretched hand
  • Violence or high-velocity trauma, such as an automobile accident

Symptoms

A wrist fracture may cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and tenderness around the wrist
  • Bruising around the wrist
  • Limited range of wrist or thumb motion
  • Visible deformity in the wrist

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured area will be examined.

Imaging tests assess the bones, surrounding structures, and soft tissues. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan—rarely
  • CT scan—rarely

Treatment

Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with the wrist. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of a wrist fracture:

  • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.

To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:

  • Clean spills and slippery areas right away.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
  • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub.
  • Put in handrails on both sides of stairways.
  • Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls.
  • Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage.
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