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Distal radius fractures

Last updated: October 26, 2020


Distal radius fractures are a common fracture of the arm, with a bimodal peak incidence between the second and third decade and individuals above 65 years of age. The mechanism of injury may be due to low-energy falls, especially in women with osteoporosis, or high-energy trauma that occurs during sports or motor vehicle accidents. Clinical features include tender, soft tissue swelling with decreased range of motion at the wrist joint. The diagnosis is confirmed by x-ray. While closed reduction may be considered as conservative therapy, more severe fractures (e.g., unstable, intraarticular, or open fractures) require surgical therapy.


  • Overall incidence: 2.5% of all emergency department visits [1]
  • Bimodal peak incidence [1]
    • 10–30 years of age; typically due to high-energy trauma in males
    • > 65 years of age; typically due to low-energy trauma in women with osteoporosis

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.



Clinical features


Differential diagnoses

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.


  • Conservative therapy
    • Closed reduction while applying longitudinal traction through the fingers
    • Dorsal forearm splint/casting and post-reduction x-rays
    • Cast removal after 6 weeks
  • Surgical therapy
    • Indications
      • Open, significantly displaced, intra-articular, and/or unstable fractures
      • Neurovascular damage
    • Postoperative immobilization of the forearm and in a dorsal forearm splint

The radius should be realigned to its normal position after fracture reduction.


See “Complications of fractures.”

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.


  1. Nellans KW, Kowalski E, Chung KC. The Epidemiology of Distal Radius Fractures. Hand Clin. 2012; 28 (2): p.113-125. doi: 10.1016/j.hcl.2012.02.001 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  2. Meena S, Sharma P, Sambharia A, Dawar A. Fractures of distal radius: An overview. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2014; 3 (4): p.325. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.148101 . | Open in Read by QxMD