Radius Fracture Definition and Meaning

A radius fracture or radius fracture is a fracture of the radius, which usually occurs near the wrist. It is one of the most common fractures and in many cases is the result of a fall when the person concerned tried to catch himself with his hand.

What is a radius fracture?

The radius fracture represents a forearm fracture. Only one of the two forearm bones is affected, which is also called the radius or radius. The spoke is on the inside of the arm and supports the carpal bones and the hand. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Radius Fracture.

It usually breaks near the wrist and is the result of an accident. Depending on the type of accident, the radius fracture is differentiated into different forms. The distal radius fracture is the most common. It occurs when the sufferer falls onto the outstretched hand. This type of fracture with a characteristic breaking point is also known as an extension fracture or Colles fracture.

Rarely, a distal radius fracture results from falling onto the flexed hand. Such a form of radius fracture is called a flexion fracture or Smith’s fracture.


The typical cause of a radius fracture is a fall onto the arm or hand. In most cases, a fracture is found near the wrist.

A fall on the outstretched palm of the hand occurred in a proportion of 90%. Children and older people in particular suffer from this form of forearm fracture. There are different reasons for this. Children often fall while playing and are therefore prone to fracture their radius. Elderly people, on the other hand, have less bone stability, so that bone fractures generally occur more quickly in the event of a fall.

Osteoporosis, which often occurs in old age, is also a contributing factor. Other typical age-related diseases can also provoke falls, which then become the cause of a radius fracture.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A fracture of the spoke is always associated with very clear and typical symptoms that the affected person can diagnose very well himself. Immediately after the fracture, there will be severe and long-lasting pain that will persist even at rest. Severe swelling often occurs, which can be seen with the naked eye.

In addition, a malposition of the wrist can often be seen in the case of an existing broken spoke. Even the smallest movements cause severe pain, so that normal movement is no longer possible. Anyone who immediately consults a doctor at this point can quickly eliminate the existing symptoms and complaints.

However, if you refrain from medical and drug treatment at this point, you have to reckon with further complaints and symptoms that can arise as a result. Under certain circumstances, inflammation is possible, resulting in the formation of an abscess. Pus develops within the faction, which under certain circumstances can lead to blood poisoning.

However, if you decide early on for medical treatment, you will be able to hear an improvement within a short time. A fracture of the radius is usually associated with painful symptoms that definitely require medical attention.

Diagnosis & History

If there is a suspicion of a radius fracture, the doctor first makes a visual diagnosis. The forearm is examined for potential skin injuries and damage to the nerves and vessels. The doctor also examines the adjacent joints so that any concomitant dislocation is not overlooked.

An X-ray is then taken to determine the type of fracture. The wrist is recorded from the side and from the front. In order to find the optimal form of therapy, a diagnosis is also made as to whether the fracture is a stable or an unstable fracture. The latter form of fracture involves injury to the ligaments.

How the radius fracture develops depends crucially on the extent of the fracture. Broken spokes in children usually heal relatively quickly. In older people or with a complicated form of radius fracture, the healing process can take longer than six months.


A radius fracture can result in various complications. These can even show up during therapy. Displacements of the broken bone parts are among the most common consequences of a spoke fracture. The fragments sometimes shift due to involuntary muscle tension even when the patient is wearing a plaster cast.

For this reason, regular X-rays are taken for control purposes. If another misalignment is discovered, surgical intervention is usually required to correct it. Subsequent displacements of the radius fracture occur with conservative therapy in around 50 percent of all patients, which represents a relatively high proportion. If these shifts occur several times in a row, doctors speak of Sudeck’s dystrophy.

Its characteristic features include a disruption in metabolism and blood flow to the bones and soft tissues. In most cases, Sudeck’s dystrophy occurs after surgery, accidents, nerve damage, and infection. Older women are particularly affected.

Another consequence of a broken spoke is lesions on the nerves and blood vessels of the affected bone. The same applies to skin and muscles. As a result, bones and soft tissues can no longer be supplied smoothly, which leads to functional disorders. The complication becomes noticeable through permanent pain with hand movements as well as skin discolouration.

In the late stage, the hand becomes stiff and sensory disturbances occur. Complications are also possible with surgical treatment of the radius fracture. These include infections, movement restrictions, wound healing disorders and tendon injuries.

When should you go to the doctor?

If persistent wrist pain is felt after a fall, accident or violence, a doctor is needed. A sudden strong sensation of pain is characteristic, which occurs immediately after a triggering event. Since there is no spontaneous healing, medical care is required.

A doctor should be consulted in the event of swelling, discolouration of the skin or open wounds on the wrist. Circulatory disorders, a loss of the usual range of motion and a decrease in the physical resilience of the hand are other signs that need to be clarified. With a radius fracture, the usual hand movements such as waving or tilting can no longer be performed. In addition, the gripping function of the hand and fingers can no longer be implemented or can only be implemented with severe restrictions.

Feelings of numbness on the skin or sensory disturbances are a cause for concern. If light touching or a resting position leads to pain development, a doctor should be consulted. Before taking pain medication, you should always consult a doctor. Sterile wound care is required so that no pathogens can get into the organism. If there is pus formation, an abscess or inflammatory reactions of the skin, a doctor must be consulted immediately. Otherwise, the person concerned is at risk of blood poisoning and thus a life-threatening condition.

Treatment & Therapy

The form of treatment for a radius fracture depends on the extent of the fracture. If it is a simple variant, the arm is immobilized with a plaster cast for several weeks. If the X-ray shows a displacement of the bones, the doctor first makes an adjustment and then the arm is placed in a cast.

If there is a risk of the fracture moving again or if it is not possible to adjust it, surgical intervention is recommended. The doctor puts the bone fragments back into their correct position. Then they have to be stabilized. Depending on the radius fracture, different methods are available for this. Wire fixation, external fixator, screwing and metal plate implantation exist.

Which type of operation is chosen depends on the degree of displacement of the broken bones and the number of broken bones in the forearm. It is also crucial whether the styloid process of the spoke has broken off. Forearm surgery is usually followed by the application of a plaster cast. A radius fracture may require a second operation because the pieces of bone sometimes shift unnaturally as the healing process progresses.


The most effective protection against a radius fracture or broken spoke is to avoid falling. Anyone who practices high-risk sports such as inline skating should not do without adequate protective clothing. It is also important to recognize any osteoporosis at an early stage. In this way, bone loss can be treated effectively, which also prevents a radius fracture.


Follow-up treatment of the radius fracture takes place with both conservative therapy and surgical intervention. For this purpose, the patient is given a plaster cast for about four to six weeks to immobilize the affected arm. In the case of surgery, immobilization may also take less time.

As part of the aftercare, the plaster cast is changed at regular intervals. The fingers usually remain freely movable within the bandage. Following a radius fracture operation, postoperative pain in the wrist is possible. The patient should therefore be treated as an in-patient for about two nights. After around 10 to 14 days, the surgical sutures can usually be removed again.

After the surgical procedure, the patient is given thromboprophylaxis while he is in the hospital. Once you have been discharged from the clinic, the medication can usually be stopped again. It is also possible to administer drugs that have a pain-relieving and decongestant effect.

Another important part of the follow-up treatment are physiotherapeutic and ergotherapeutic rehabilitation measures. This also includes movement exercises for thumbs and fingers. Active mobilization of the shoulder and elbow joints after a long period of immobilization is also useful. At the same time, attention is paid to smooth blood circulation and sensitivity of all fingers. After two to three weeks, the patient can carry out everyday activities again. Sporting activities are usually possible after eight to twelve weeks.

You can do that yourself

Although broken spokes are common, they should not be treated carelessly. Those affected should consult a doctor immediately so that he can treat the fracture professionally. Complicated and severe fractures in particular can lead to functional impairments if they heal poorly. This is especially true when the wrist is involved.

A fracture of the radius is not only painful, but can also lead to inflammation that can lead to abscesses and blood poisoning. Therefore, taking anti-inflammatory painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is indicated. Here the doctor will issue appropriate prescriptions. With a radius fracture, the tissue around the fracture is also injured, which can cause swelling. This swelling can be cooled by the plaster cast. Medical cooling compresses that are placed on the bandage are recommended. If the cooling pads have been stored in the freezer, they should never be placed directly on the skin, otherwise cold burns may occur.

It can take a few weeks for the arm to fully function again. Patience is required during this time. The affected arm should be immobilized for as long as possible. This promotes healing and significantly reduces the rate of complications. Once the cast has been removed, patients should be sure to perform the physical therapy prescribed for them. It promotes the mobility of the affected arm and helps the fracture to heal completely.

Radius Fracture

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