Colles' Fracture

Definition

A Colle's fracture is a break in the distal part of the radius bone. The radius is one of the bones of the forearm. The distal end of the bone is considered part of the wrist. Distal radius fractures are categorized by type:

  • Open fracture—a broken bone that breaks through the skin
  • Comminuted fracture—a bone that breaks into more than two pieces
  • Intra-articular fracture—a broken bone within a joint
  • Extra-articular fracture—a broken bone that does not involve the joint
Intra-articular Colle's Fracture
Colle's Fracture
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This sheet focuses on fracture of the distal radius. Fractures of other wrist bones can be found on a separate sheet.

Causes

A distal radius fracture can be caused by:

  • A fall on an outstretched hand
  • A direct blow to the wrist

Risk Factors

Factors that can increase your risk of breaking your radius bone include:

  • Severe trauma:
    • Car accidents
    • Fall from a height
    • Violence
    • Falling off a bike
    • Skiing fall
  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor nutrition
  • Conditions that increase the risk of falling include:
    • Snow
    • Ice
    • Loss of agility or muscle strength
    • Certain sports
  • Increased age
  • Postmenopause
  • Decreased muscle mass

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Arm or wrist pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Severe pain with movement
  • Trouble moving your wrist or arm
  • Wrist appears out of line

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images will usually be taken of your wrist or arm. This can be done with an x-ray .

After you are diagnosed, you may be referred to a specialist. An orthopedist focuses on bones.

Treatment

It takes 6-10 weeks for a fracture of the radius at the wrist to heal. The type of treatment you receive depends on where your bone is broken and how serious the break is.

Some fractures require a reduction. This means the doctor realigns the bones before healing begins. Reductions can be done by the doctor putting your bone fragments into position by moving your arm or through surgery.

Your doctor may choose to treat the fracture using a cast. Your cast may be removed after a few weeks and replaced if it loosens. Most casts are removed at about six weeks.

In other cases, a splint or a soft bandage may be used instead of a cast. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.

Medication

Your doctor may prescribe a pain medication or suggest an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Surgery

A distal radius fracture sometimes requires surgery. The surgeon first realigns the bones during an operation. Then, any of the following may be used to hold the bones together as they heal:

  • A plate and screws
  • Pins
  • An external device that holds the inside pins together

You may be given a splint to wear after surgery to keep your arm from moving too much.

Physical Therapy

You may be referred to a physical therapist. Exercises will help you regain range of motion and strength.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of fracturing your radius bone, take the following steps:

  • Consider wearing a wrist guard when you play sports that put you at risk, such as in-line skating.
  • Keep your muscles strong to prevent falls.

Revisions

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