When is surgery needed for a distal radius fracture? What does surgery look like?

For a distal radius fracture, surgery required if the bone is so out of place it cannot be corrected in a cast. It typically involves making an incision to directly access the broken bones to improve alignment. Internal fixation devices, such as plates, rods or screws, are used to maintain proper position of your bones during healing. Sometimes an external stabilizing frame is used to hold the bones in place.

When is surgery needed for a scaphoid fracture? What does surgery look like?

If the scaphoid bones are out of position, surgery is needed. The surgery is called an open reduction and internal fixation. In this procedure, the surgeon aligns the bone ends and inserts a metal screw to hold the scaphoid in place until the bone is fully healed. Occasionally, a bone graft is needed to aid healing. The graft is taken from the forearm or hip, placed between the broken scaphoid and secured with a metal screw, allowing the bones to fuse. 

Anatomy

The wrist is made up of eight small bones and the two forearm bones, the radius and ulna. The radius is the larger of the two forearm bones. The end closest to the wrist is called the distal end. A fracture of the distal radius occurs when this area of the radius breaks. The small bones of the wrist (the carpal bones) connect the bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) to the bones of the hand. The scaphoid is a carpal bone located at the base of the thumb, just above the radius bone.

A wrist fracture may occur in any of these bones when enough force is applied to the wrist, such as when falling down onto an outstretched hand. Severe injuries may occur from a more forceful injury, such as a car accident or a fall off a roof or ladder. Osteoporosis, a common condition in which the bone becomes thinner and more brittle, may make you more likely to get a wrist fracture with a simple fall.

What is the recovery time?

Following surgery, most patients spend several weeks in a cast or splint. Once the bones have healed, rehabilitation with a Certified Hand Therapist is recommended to strengthen and stabilize the muscles around the wrist joint, and improve hand dexterity. Full healing and return to activities or sports varies by patient and demand.