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Wrist Fracture

What is a wrist fracture?

A wrist fracture is a crack or break in one or more bones in the wrist. The break may be just a bend or small crack in the bone, or the bone may break into pieces or shatter. Some fractures may stick out through the skin.

There are 8 bones in the wrist. They attach to the bones in the forearm and the bones in the hand.

What is the cause?

Broken wrists are usually caused by a fall or direct hit to the wrist. A fracture may also be the result of a medical condition that causes weak or brittle bones.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness that happens right after the injury
  • Pain when the injured area is touched
  • Pain or swelling that keeps your child from bending or using his or her wrist
  • An area of the wrist or hand that is cold, pale, or numb
  • A change in the shape of the wrist

How is it diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and how the injury happened. Your provider will examine your child. Tests may include:

  • X-rays of the wrist
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the bones
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the bones

How is it treated?

The treatment depends on the type of fracture.

  • If your child has an open wound with the fracture, your child may need treatment to control bleeding or prevent infection.
  • If the broken bone is crooked, your healthcare provider will straighten it. Your child will be given medicine first so the straightening is less painful.
  • Sometimes surgery is needed to put the bones back into the right position.
  • Your child’s provider may put the wrist in a splint or cast to keep it from moving while it heals. If your child has a cast, make sure the cast does not get wet. Cover the cast with plastic when your child bathes. Teach your child not to scratch the skin around the cast or poke things down between the cast and the skin. This could cause an infection.

With treatment, the fracture may take up to 6 to 12 weeks to heal. Your child may need to do special exercises to help the wrist get stronger and more flexible. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about this.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Also:

  • To keep swelling down and help relieve pain, your healthcare provider may tell you to:
    • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time for the first day or two after the injury.
    • Keep the wrist up on pillows when your child sits or lies down.
    • Give your child pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. Read the label and give as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, your child should not take the medicine for more than 10 days. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • How long it will take for your child to recover
  • What activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent a wrist fracture?

Most broken wrists are caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent. Your child should wear protective wrist guards during activities like rollerblading.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-04-11
Last reviewed: 2012-01-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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