Wrist Fracture Surgery

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

If you have a wrist fracture, you may need to have surgery to repair the damage.

If you are looking for an experienced wrist surgeon in the Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia area, our experts at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow can assist you. Schedule an appointment with us today to get you on the road to recovery!

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What Is a Wrist Fracture?

A wrist fracture occurs when you have a crack or broken bone in your wrist joint. Within your forearm, you have two bones—the ulna and radius. The portion of the radius that connects to your wrist is called the distal radius.

If your radius breaks near the wrist, it is known as a distal radius fracture. Distal radius fractures are the most commonly broken bone in your wrist.

A distal radius fracture can be classified as either a Colles fracture or a Smith fracture, depending on the angle at which the distal radius breaks. One of the most common distal radius fractures is Colles fracture, in which a broken fragment or piece of your radius tilts upward.

What Are the Symptoms of a Distal Radius Fracture?

Some of the symptoms of a distal radius fracture include:

  • Immediate pain
  • Tender to the touch
  • Deformity
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

What Is Wrist Fracture Surgery?

Wrist fracture surgery is used to repair broken fragments or broken bones within your wrist. There are different types of surgery that can be used to fix your broken wrist. They are described in detail below.

Internal Fixation

Internal fixation is a surgical treatment usually performed using a small plate and screws to physically reconnect your bones and internally set and stabilize your bones. Once your bone heals, the plate will be removed, and a second surgery will be performed to complete the repair.

External Fixation

While less commonly used than internal fixation, an external fixator is a metal stabilizing frame placed outside your body to hold your bones in the proper position so they can heal properly if the soft tissues around your distal radius fracture have been severely damaged.

When Is Wrist Fracture Surgery Needed?

Some fractures can be treated without surgery by means of a splint or cast if the bone fragments are minimally displaced and remain in close connection.

However, for displaced fractures or if a fracture extends into your wrist, your surgeon may recommend fixation surgery for proper bone healing and improved alignment and function of your arm. Surgical intervention is usually considered for wrist fractures that cannot be corrected with a cast.

Wrist Fracture Surgery Preparation

Before having a distal radius fracture repair surgery, there are steps you can take to prepare to make the surgical process run smoothly, including the following:

  1. Inform your specialist of any medication you may be taking, including herbal supplements.
  2. Comply with any instructions you receive to stop taking drugs that affect your blood’s ability to clot.
  3. Refrain from drinking or eating anything for the recommended time frame your specialist gives you before the procedure.
  4. Stop smoking.

How Is Wrist Fracture Surgery Performed?

Wrist fracture surgery is performed with either regional or general anesthesia. Surgery is generally performed by the following steps:

  1. The surgical site will be cleaned.
  2. An incision on the palm side of your forearm and wrist will be made.
  3. Your bones will be realigned and a combination of a plate and screws will be placed to secure the fracture position and keep your bones aligned.
  4. The incision will then be closed.
  5. Dressings will then be placed over the incision along with a removable splint.

During an external fixation surgery, your surgeon will place an external frame to hold the metal pins in place to help your injury heal and stabilize your wrist. 

How Long Does it Take to Recover from a Wrist Fracture Surgery?

After you have had surgery to fix your fractured wrist, it generally takes two to three months to heal before you can return to participating in normal activities. For some, a full recovery can take up to one year. Since everyone is different, your doctor will be able to give you a more specific time frame for your recovery.

For pain management after your procedure, pain medications may be taken. You may go to hand therapy, which is similar to physical therapy, except that it is specifically tailored to your hand and wrist.

Wrist Fracture Surgery Risks

While no surgery is risk-free, the risk of major complications from distal radius surgery is low and can include:

  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Nerve damage
  • Nonunion of the distal radius occurs when a fracture fails to unite
  • Malunion occurs when your bones do not line up correctly as they heal, resulting in deformity
  • Implant-related tendon irritation
  • Hardware failure
  • Damage to your blood vessels

If you suspect you may need surgery, schedule an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow in Marietta or Atlanta, GA today! Our trained specialists can give you the professional care you’re looking for. 

Medically reviewed by

Randall Alexander, MD

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon