Information Regarding Wrist Fracture Reduction & Fixation
- You are scheduled for Wrist Fracture Reduction and Fixation. Fractures of the wrist usually refer to injuries of the end of the radius bone and/or the ulna. The radius forms the major joint surface of the wrist. Different fractures may be treated in many different ways. Some can be treated with casting only while others may require surgery. The surgery usually involves setting the fracture fragments and fixing them with pins or a plate and screws while they heal.
- The type of surgery and method used to fix the fracture depends highly on the fracture pattern and your surgeon’s preference and expertise. In some cases setting the bones may not require an incision while in others, you may need an incision. Sometimes, pins may be placed through the skin and left in place while the fracture heals. Usually they are removed at 6 weeks after surgery. The location of any incisions made will also depend on the fracture itself. If you have questions regarding the specific details of your chosen treatment, you should ask your surgeon. The procedure is usually done with general anesthesia and possibly a nerve block for postoperative pain control.
- Before surgery, you will need to obtain clearance from your regular doctor if you have medical problems. You may be required to obtain some basic tests for screening before the surgery. Basic blood tests, a chest x-ray, and an EKG may be required depending on your health.
- Wrist fracture patterns vary. Your result will most likely depend on the initial severity of the fracture itself. Although surgery may give you the best chance at preventing deterioration of the cartilage in your wrist, sometimes arthritis may develop when the joint surface is injured even with surgery. Wrist and finger stiffness may occur with immobilization in a splint or if you fail to frequently exercise the fingers in the postoperative period. Wound infections, nerve damage, and failure of the bone to heal are less common complications. It generally takes 3 months for full recovery after injury and and surgery.
- After surgery, you will be discharged home in a splint that goes from your hand to just above your elbow. The splint should be kept clean and dry. You may take a bath or shower with a plastic bag over the splint to keep it dry. You should follow up with your surgeon or PA in 10 to 14 days after surgery. Generally, you will be changed to cast that ends below your elbow at that time. You will remain in the cast until 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. At this point, you will likely be provided a removable wrist splint and start hand therapy to restore the range of motion of your wrist and fingers.
- Your return to work depends on your profession and the availability of light duty. Generally, light office work, typing, writing, and using a computer are acceptable even 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. No heavy lifting or forceful gripping with the operative hand is permitted until at least 6 weeks after surgery.
- Call your surgeon if you have an elevated temperature greater than 101.5 degrees, redness, or drainage from the incision site as this may be indicative of a wound infection.
- If you are running low on pain medication after surgery and anticipate the need for more, please call your doctor’s office during regular office hours (8am to 5pm Monday – Friday).
- For more information about the treatment of wrist fractures click here.