Distal radius fractures

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  • Definition: Fracture at the metaphysis or the articulation of the distal radius
  • One of the most common fractures seen in the ED (1/6th of all fractures treated)

Distal radius fractures

Distal radius fracture eponyms

Eponyms Description
Barton's Fracture-dislocation of radiocarpal joint (with intra-articular fracture involving the volar or dorsal lip)
Chauffer's Fracture of radial styloid
Colles' Dorsally displaced, extra-articular fracture
Die-punch Depressed fracture of the lunate fossa (articular surface)
Smith's Volar displaced, extra-articular fracture

Clinical Features

Distal radius fracture demonstrating the deformity in the wrist.
  • Commonly from a fall on an outstretched wrist that is dorsiflexed
  • Wrist/forearm trauma and pain
  • Possible forearm deformity

Exam Pearls

  • Perform full neurovascular assessment of the hand (including median, ulnar, and radial nerves
  • Examine ipsilateral elbow, shoulder, and hand

Differential Diagnosis

Forearm Fractures



  • Forearm x-ray AP and lateral


  • Typically from plain forearm x-rays


General Fracture Management

Acute Reduction

  • Indications:
    • Most angulated and/or displaced distal radius requires closed reduction and placement of a sugar-tong splint
    • Consider even if operative management is expected (to reduce pain and swelling)
  • Steps:
    1. Adequate analgesia (e.g. morphine and/or hematoma block)
    2. highly consider procedural sedation
    3. Axial traction: Manual or finger traps with hanging weights, if available
    4. Recreate, then reverse, mechanism of injury
      • Although recreating the injury briefly exaggerates the existing deformity, this maneuver "unlocks" any periosteal sleeve folded into the fracture site (which can be critical in achieving reduction)
      • Continue to maintain axial traction throughout manuver
      • For example with a fracture with dorsally angulated fragments, establish axial traction, then slightly bending the dorsal fragment even more dorsally while maintain traction, then reverse pressure to reduce the distal fragment volarly and back out to length, all while maintaining traction.
    5. Splint
    6. Re-image
  • Goal:
    • Always target optimal (anatomic) fracture reduction
    • Acceptable healing parameters:

Operative fixation is recommended for fractures with post-reduction radial shortening > 3mm, dorsal tilt > 10°, or intra-articular displacement or step-off > 2mm[1]


  • Most can be treated with orthopedic follow up within 1 week


See Also

External Links


  1. AAOS OrthoGuidelines. Treatment of Distal Radius Fractures. http://www.orthoguidelines.org/topic?id=1003