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Colles (Wrist) Fracture

A Colles fracture is a common type of wrist fracture that happens when you fall and land on your hand. It can cause pain, swelling, and a deformed wrist. Most of the time, it can be treated with a cast or splint, but sometimes surgery is needed.

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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.

What causes a Colles fracture?

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.

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Colles (Wrist) Fracture Symptoms and Diagnosis

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.

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How Do You Treat a Colles (Wrist) Fracture?

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.

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