Frequently Asked Questions

Wrist Fracture In Adults

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What is a wrist fracture?

A wrist fracture is a break in one or more bones of the wrist.

What causes a wrist fracture?

A wrist fracture is usually caused by a fall on an outstretched hand. Wrist bones may also be broken when hit directly by a hard object. Medical conditions, such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), may increase your chances of having wrist fractures.

What are the signs and symptoms of a wrist fracture?

  • Pain, swelling, and bruising of your injured wrist

  • Wrist pain that is worse when you hold or squeeze something

  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your injured hand or wrist

  • Trouble moving your wrist, hand, or fingers

  • Change in the shape of your wrist

How is a wrist fracture diagnosed?

  • X-rays: You may need x-rays of your wrist, hand, and forearm to check for broken bones. X-rays of both your injured and uninjured wrists may be taken.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your forearm, wrist, and hand. The pictures may show if you have broken a bone. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your forearm, wrist, and hand. An MRI may show if you have broken a bone. You may be given a dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a wrist fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on which wrist bone was broken and the kind of fracture you have. You may need the following:

  • Cast or splint: A cast or splint keeps your wrist from moving to allow it to heal. They may also help decrease pain and prevent further damage to your broken bones.

  • Medicine: Medicine may be given to ease your pain. You may need antibiotic medicine or a tetanus shot if there is a break in the skin.

  • Surgery: If a bone has moved out of place, you may need surgery to put it back in its normal position.

What are the risks of a wrist fracture?

Surgery or an open wound may cause you to bleed or get an infection. You may get a blood clot in your arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. If not treated, the bones may not heal properly. This may also cause blood supply problems to the wrist and hand. You may have problems with hand movement or decreased grip strength.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your fractured wrist for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.

  • Physical therapy: You may need physical therapy after your wrist heals and the cast is removed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • There is a bad smell coming from under your cast or splint.

  • You have more pain or swelling than before the cast or splint was put on.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek immediate care or call 911 if:

  • You have increased pain or swelling in your wrist area that does not go away.

  • Your cast or splint gets damaged or breaks.

  • Your cast or splint becomes soaked with blood.

  • Your cast feels tighter, and you have more swelling in your fingers.

  • Your fingers on the injured wrist turn blue or white, or they are cold or numb.

  • Your arm feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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