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Colles’ Fracture

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A broken bone is called as a fracture medically. The Colles’ fracture is a type of abroken wrist. This article will cover information related to Colles’ fracture.

What is Colles’ Fracture?

The Colles’ fracture is the fracture of the distal radius of the forearm. Thus, it is also called as distal radius fracture or transverse wrist fracture. It is also called as a ‘dinner fork’ or ‘bayonet’ due to the deformed shape of the broken forearm. The broken fragment of the radius in this fracture bends upward. Thus, causing the wrist to bend in an abnormal way.

Description of Colles’ Fracture

The radius is the large bone of the forearm. The portion of the radius near the wrist is called as the distal end. The fracture occurs about 1 inch away from the end of the bone. The fracture can occur in many different ways. The most common distal radius fractures is the Colles’ fracture. It was first described by an Irish surgeon and anatomist, Abraham Colles in 1814. According to Colles, the carpus and metacarpus in this type of fracture appear to be thrown backwards.

Causes of Colles’ Fracture

The most common cause of Colles’ fracture is falling on a hard surface with their outstretched hand trying to break the fall. This falling on the wrists causes the radius bone to break near its end. This spot is the weak point of the bone as it here the bone widens. This fracture is very common in people with osteoporosis like the elderly or post menopausal women.

Types of Colles’ Fracture

There are different ways the wrist can break. Based on the type, the doctor will decide the treatment. The type of fractures include:

  • Open fracture: The bone breaks through the skin
  • Comminuted fracture: The bone breaks into more than two pieces
  • Intra-articular fracture: The bone breaks inside the wrist joint
  • Extra-articular fracture: The wrist joint is not affected by the break

Symptoms of Colles’ Fracture

The distal end breaks and causes the wrist to break in an abnormal way. Depending on the injury, one may experience pain, inability to hold or grip anything. The wrist will have swelling as well as bruising.

Diagnosis of Colles’ Fracture

The doctor will observe a dorsal tilt, radial shortening, radial angulation of the wrist, comminution at the fracture site, etc. An X-ray will be taken to check whether the bone is broken or displaced. Also, it will help the doctor determine the number of broken bones or pieces of bones in the wrist.

Treatment for Colles’ Fracture

When one suffer’s from Colles’ fracture, they need to first protect their wrist with the help of a splint. This can be done, if the wrist is not deformed or bent in an abnormal way. An ice pack will help reduce the swelling. If the fracture is not very severe, one can elevate the wrist.

Do not move or try to straighten the wrist yourself! Visit the doctor as soon as possible.

If the fracture is not very serious, the doctor will wear you wear the wrist in a lightweight cast. He may even need to straighten the bone depending on the way it has fractured. This is called as reduction. After this process is complete, the doctor will put it in a cast. The cast is kept on for about 6 weeks and the bone allowed to heal.

In case of severe injury, the doctor will require to operate on the wrist. The wrist will be straightened with the help of pins, plate and screw. After the surgery, the wrist will be kept in a splint or cast and you need to avoid moving it, till it heals.

Depending on the injury, one will require physical therapy to help rebuild the strength of the broken bone and wrist.

Prognosis for Colles’ Fracture

It takes about a year for the fracture to heal completely. After 6 weeks, the cast is removed and one can carry out light activities within a month or two. Heavy work can be done after about 3 to 6 months of surgery. The wrist may feel still for about a month or so. One may even feel pain for a couple of years after the injury.

One should include calcium in their diet. Eat more of leafy foods, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Make sure you receive vitamin D from sunlight. This will help strengthen the bones and prevent fractures.

As one gets older, they should ask their doctor for an osteoporosis test, especially women. This will help prevent fractures and injuries as they age, due to a minor fall or injury. Speak to your doctor for more information on bone health and prevention of fractures.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 29, 2015