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What is a Wrist Fracture?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated May 17, 2024
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A fracture is a break in a bone and often is accompanied by an injury to soft tissue such as the skin, nerves, blood vessels and muscles surrounding the break. A wrist fracture or broken wrist is a break in any one of the carpals, the bones that form the wrist. Fractures, including a wrist fracture, can vary significantly in severity, size and the type of treatment that is needed for proper healing.

Doctors can classify a wrist fracture or any other broken bone as open or closed as well as by the way in which the bone is broken. For example, an open wrist fracture would be an injury involving the breaking open of the skin through which bone and other soft tissue might protrude and be accompanied by bleeding. A closed fracture is an injury in which the skin has not been broken open, but a closed wrist fracture is not necessarily less painful than an open one. One of the most significant differences between the open and the closed wrist fracture is that the open one increases a patient's risk for developing serious infection and always requires surgery for proper healing, and closed fractures might not require surgical intervention.

The terms "comminuted," "greenstick" and "angulated" are used by mecial professionals to refer to the ways that bones can be broken. If a wrist fracture involves breaks in several places in the carpals, it can be referred to as a comminuted fracture. An incomplete break in one of the bones could be described as a greenstick fracture. The term angulated refers to bones that are broken at an angle and is used primarily to describe fractures of long bones such as those of the arm, not the irregularly shaped carpals that form the wrist.

Although X-rays or some other form of imaging process is used to confirm whether an actual wrist fracture has occurred, there should be a very high suspicion of such an injury if the area is painful, swollen or shows any signs of deformity. This is especially true if the person suffered significant trauma to any other part of his or her body. Other than the protrusion of bone through an open fracture, a deformed wrist probably is one of the most accurate signs that the carpals have been broken.

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Discussion Comments

By Janegarcia — On Oct 03, 2019

What does it indicate when some of the skin around the wrist turns yellow from a dark bruise?

By donasmrs — On Jun 01, 2014

A comminuted wrist fracture must be the worst type of wrist fracture. I had a single intra-articular fracture several years ago and it was very painful. I can't imagine how painful it must be to have two or more fractures in the wrist. And it must take forever to heal. I think they place a plate when there are many severe fractures to support the bone. At least that option is available.

By discographer — On Jun 01, 2014

@burcinc-- All wrist fractures are basically treated the same way -- by putting bones that our out of place in their place and then applying a plaster and or cast for healing.

Sometimes the bone that's broken can be placed back into the right position without surgery. Sometimes, it's necessary to make an incision to get the bone piece into place. This is probably what is needed for your nephew. After the bone is in place, a plaster will be placed to make sure that the bone doesn't move. The plaster or cast will stay on for five weeks or more depending on the severity of the fracture and symptoms.

By burcinc — On May 31, 2014

I just found out that my nephew is in the hospital due to a Colles' wrist fracture. His mom says that surgery is necessary.

Has anyone here had this type of wrist fracture before? Is it very dangerous? How long does it take to heal?

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