Colles’ (Wrist) Fracture

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What Is a Colles’ Fracture?

Of the many wrist fracture types, the Colles’ fracture is the most common.

Also called a “distal radius fracture,” a Colles’ fracture involves the larger of the two bones at the wrist — the radius. It directly involves the distal radius — the end of the bone toward the fingers, as opposed to toward the elbow.

Colles’ fracture causes

Colles’ fractures most often occur with a fall onto an outstretched hand.

The fall sends force through the bones and displaces the distal radius toward the back of the hand or forearm.

Doctors can treat most Colles’ fractures with casting or splinting. Some people may benefit from surgery to improve alignment and restore function in the wrist, after a Colles' fracture.

Make an appointment for Colles’ fracture care

To make an appointment or learn more about wrist fractures, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

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Colles’ (Wrist) Fracture Symptoms and Diagnosis

Colles’ fracture symptoms

Colles' (wrist) fracture symptoms include:

  • Pain when you bend your wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity

Broken wrist symptoms

If you have any of the following symptoms of a broken wrist, you need to seek medical attention right away:

  • Severe pain
  • Numbness
  • Discolored fingers

Colles’ fracture diagnosis

Your doctor may be able to tell that you've fractured your wrist based on a physical exam. With these types of fractures, the wrist may bend in an awkward way or look abnormal.

Often, your doctor will order an x-ray to confirm the condition, location, and severity of the break.

Make an appointment for Colles’ fracture symptoms and diagnosis

Contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) to make an appointment with a sports medicine expert.

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Colles’ (Wrist) Fracture Treatments

Colles’ fractures are most often acute injuries that are the result of accidental falls.

When the Colles' fracture first occurs, apply ice to your wrist and keep it elevated until you're able to see a doctor.

After an exam, your doctor may use nonsurgical or surgical treatments depending on the severity of the Colles’ fracture.

Nonsurgical Colles’ fracture treatment

If the bone is lining up well enough, your doctor may place a splint or cast on the arm.

You will wear the splint or cast for four to six weeks and have routine x-rays to ensure the bone is healing properly.

Your doctor may also tell you to take acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Colles’ fracture surgery

For a more severe Colles’ fracture, your doctor may need to perform broken wrist surgery.

You'll then wear a cast for about six weeks.

You may have a long recovery after Colles’ fracture surgery.

Even after your doctor removes the cast or splint, you might have constant stiffness in your arm.

Physical therapy right after surgery will help restore range-of-motion in the wrist and strength of the forearm.

Make an appointment for Colles’ fracture treatment

To make an appointment or learn more about wrist fracture treatment, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

Learn more about Colles’ fracture treatment

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