A fracture of the distal radius usually occurs by a fall on an outstretched hand. When this occurs, treatment of the fracture may require surgical repair in order to optimize the functional outcome of the wrist. This is determined using x-rays of the wrist and evaluating the changes in angulation of the joint surface, the degree of impaction and shortening of the bone and the number of splits in the joint surface and their displacement.
The surgery for this injury is usually done through an incision in the palmar side of the wrist. At times an incision on the back of the wrist is necessary as well. Once the fracture fragments are placed back into an appropriate position, the fragments are held in place with an internal fixation device which is usually composed of a metal plate with screws that go into the bone. Rarely, an external fixation device is used for very specific fractures. This device is composed of metal pins that go into the bones through the skin and are connected to carbon fiber rods on the outside of the skin. The fracture is then held in place with this device while it heals and it is eventually removed.
This surgery is usually done as an outpatient. Once completed the wrist will be placed into a splint that should be left on until the first follow-up visit. Finger motion is encouraged throughout the pre-operative and post-operative period.