Distal radial fracture (summary)

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 3 Apr 2018
This is a basic article for medical students and other non-radiologists

Distal radial fractures are a relatively common group of injuries that usually occur following a fall. The commonest of these fractures is a transverse extra-articular fracture and where there is associated dorsal angulation, this is termed a Colles fracture.

Reference article

This is a summary article. For more information, you can read a more in-depth reference articles: distal radial fracture, Colles fracture.

  • anatomy
  • epidemiology
    • bimodal age and sex distribution
    • younger males in high energy mechanisms
    • older females after simple falls
  • presentation
    • fall onto an outstretched hand with pain and deformity
  • pathophysiology
    • after FOOSH force transmitted through the wrist
    • a direct blow to the wrist may also result in a fracture 
  • investigation
    • wrist series (AP and lateral)
  • treatment
    • often treatment is conservative with immobilization in a cast
    • if there is deformity and fracture angulation reduction is required
    • in some cases, internal fixation is needed

The commonest fracture of the distal radius is a transverse extra-articular fracture which is usually seen as a transverse lucency across the distal radius in the region of the metaphysis.

If there is impaction, the fracture may be seen as a sclerotic line.

Transverse fractures may be angulated - dorsal angulation is commonest (a Colles fracture). There may be fracture extension into the joint which is important to pick up.

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