McAllen, TX—According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the radius, or wrist, is the most commonly broken bone in the arm. Orthopedic Surgeon Frank Gerold, MD, who specializes in treating the shoulder down to the fingertip, says there are many different ways your wrist can break. The main determining factors are bone quality and the way the injury happens, such as a simple fall or major trauma. He shares his thoughts about treatment, when surgery may be needed and regaining mobility in the joint.
Question: What are some complications that may arise from a broken wrist?
Answer: Whenever the joint surface is involved and the cartilage is injured, it's possible that arthritis can occur down the road. Depending on the symptoms, this can be treated conservatively or with further surgery. Injuries to the surrounding joints, nerves and ligaments may also need specialized care.
Question: When might surgery be necessary?
Answer: Surgery may be necessary when the fracture is open, (the bone has broken through the skin), or if the bone is broken into many pieces. Another indication for surgery is when the nerves or major blood vessels around the wrist and hand are injured as well. I also consider the patient's age, activity level and overall expectations when discussing surgery with a patient.
Question: Why choose an orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in hand/upper extremity surgery vs. orthopedic surgery?
Answer: The hand and wrist are very complex and warrant specialized care. When someone breaks their wrist, it's easy to diagnose. But to the untrained eye, some of the associated injuries, like nerve and ligament problems, can go undiagnosed, which can lead to a poor outcome if missed.
Question: What factors are involved with recovery time and regaining full mobility?
Answer: When you break your wrist, the goal is to first get the bone to heal, then regain motion and strength in the hand/wrist. But certain factors can affect bone healing, including age, bone quality, certain medical problems, medications and even cigarette smoking. Once the bone is healed, occupational/hand therapy is key to regaining function. Sometimes this can even be done at home!