A broken wrist is a fracture of any of the bones which make up the wrist joint. Here we explain the symptoms and causes of various types of wrist fractures.
Broken wrist symptoms
Broken wrist symptoms will vary slightly depending on the type and grade of the fracture.
- Sudden pain in the wrist.
- Rapid swelling.
- Your wrist may appear deformed.
- Pain is likely to increase when trying to move your hand.
- If tingling or numbness are felt anywhere in the hand or fingers this may indicate nerve damage.
Diagnosis of a broken wrist
If you suspect a broken wrist then seek urgent medical attention immediately. An X-ray should be taken to determine the extent of the fracture and displacement of any bone fragments.
A full examination of any fractured wrist will help to rule out any other associated injuries. If bones pierce the skin then this is known as an open fracture.
Sometimes the bone fragment may be broken into more than one piece. This is known as a comminuted fracture of the wrist
Types of wrist fracture
Here we explain the common types of wrist fractures:
A Colles fracture is a break at the wrist end of the radius bone in the forearm. The most common cause of a Colles fracture is a fall onto an outstretched arm. Symptoms include:
- Sudden pain in the wrist with rapid swelling.
- There may be a deformity known as a dinner fork deformity.
- The patient will experience severe pain when trying to move the wrist.
- In very severe cases one end of the bone may pierce the skin (called an open fracture).
- Sometimes a fracture of the end of the Ulna bone may also occur.
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A Scaphoid fracture is probably the most common wrist fracture and involves a break to one of the small carpal bones in the wrist called the scaphoid.
- The blood supply to the scaphoid is poor so complications and incomplete healing can occur.
- Symptoms of a scaphoid fracture include pain in the wrist at the time of injury and rapid swelling at the back of the wrist.
- Pain may settle down soon after the fall but the patient will have difficulty gripping things.
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Hook of hamate fracture
Another type of wrist fracture is a fractured hook of hamate. This is a fracture of the hamate bone on the little finger side of the wrist.
- It has a hook-shaped part that protrudes outwards and can under certain circumstances be fractured.
- Symptoms include wrist pain which is located on the little finger side of the wrist.
- The patient will have reduced grip strength and there will be tenderness when touching the palm side of the wrist.
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A Triquetral Fracture is a break of the Triquetral bone (sometimes called triquetrum). The Triquetral is the second most commonly fractured carpal bone, behind the Scaphoid.
- Falling onto an outstretched arm is the most common cause.
- Symptoms include pain in the wrist, located on the little or pinky finger side of the wrist.
- There will be rapid swelling and tenderness with reduced grip strength.
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A Bennett fracture is an injury to the base of the thumb joint.
- It is usually caused by punching something hard or falling onto the hand with the thumb sticking out to the side.
- Symptoms will be similar to other wrist and hand fractures with immediate and severe pain over the thumb side of the wrist.
- There will be rapid swelling and bruising.
- In more serious cases the thumb may appear deformed.
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A Rolando Fracture, like Bennett’s fracture is also a break at the base of the 1st metacarpal. However, it is a little more complex to treat as the bone is fractured into several pieces.
- A Rolando fracture will most likely be caused by a sudden impact or trauma such as punching something hard.
- The patient will feel immediate severe pain on the thumb side of the wrist.
- There will be rapid swelling and bruising may appear.
- The thumb may appear deformed depending on the level of bone displacement.
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A Smith’s fracture is a break at the end of the radius bone. The fragment of a fractured bone is displaced forwards to the palm side of the wrist.
- Symptoms of a Smith’s fracture include sudden pain in the wrist after a fall or impact.
- There will be tenderness in the area of the fracture with pain and difficulty moving the wrist.
- The wrist may appear deformed with the hand appearing to be angled downwards.
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