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Treating Wrist Fractures

A fractured bone starts to heal on its own right away. But a treatment called reduction may help you heal better. Reduction is a process that repositions your bones. The goal is to get them as close as possible to how they were before the break. Your healthcare provider will use one or more methods of reduction.

Closed reduction

If you have a clean break with little soft tissue damage, closed reduction will likely be used. Before the procedure, you may be given medicine to relax your muscles. Then your healthcare provider manually readjusts the position of the broken bone. A splint or cast will be worn while you heal.

Back view of forearm showing external fixator holding fractured radius in place.
A plate with tiny screws helps keep the bone stable and in place.

Open reduction

An open fracture means the bone is sticking out through the skin. If you have an open fracture, you may need open reduction. You may also need this if there are badly misaligned sections of bone or severe tissue injury. You may be given medicine during the procedure to let you sleep and relax your muscles. Your healthcare provider then makes one or more cuts (incisions) to realign the bone and fix soft tissues. Pins, screws, plates, or a combination of implants may be used under the skin to hold the bone in place during healing. Another device that may be used is an external fixator. It holds the bones in the right position. It's surgically placed on the outside of the skin.

Front view of forearm with a plate holding fracture of the radius together.
An external fixator is a rigid bar that screws into the bone through tiny holes made in the skin. It holds the broken parts of bone in place.

The road to healing

Fractures take about 6 weeks or more to heal. Keeping your hand raised above your heart can help control swelling, throbbing, and pain. Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to help ease pain. Don’t remove a splint unless your healthcare provider says you can. Call your healthcare provider if your pain gets worse or if you notice a lot of swelling or redness. Sometimes these implants, especially wires and external fixators, may need to be removed after the broken bone has healed. 

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
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