Forearm fracture (summary)

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

Forearm fractures are a group of fractures that occur in the forearm following trauma. The radius and ulna are bound together at the proximal and distal radioulnar joints and act as a ring. Like elsewhere in the body, it is difficult to only fracture one bone if there is a bony ring. If the radius or ulna is fractured, it is likely that either there is another fracture or one of the radioulnar joints has been damaged.

Reference article

This is a summary article. For more information, you can read a more in-depth reference article: forearm fracture.

  • epidemiology
    • all age-groups
    • bimodal age and sex distribution
  • presentation
    • pain affecting the forearm with or without associated wrist/elbow injury
  • pathophysiology
    • mechanism is often by fall on outstretched hand, or direct blow
  • investigation
    • forearm series for injuries that clearly don't localize to a joint
    • may be diagnosed on wrist or elbow radiographs
  • treatment
    • treatment by immobilization in a cast for simple fractures
    • reduction and internal fixation for more complex injuries

Forearm fractures are readily diagnosed on plain radiographs and further imaging is rarely required.

An AP and lateral x-ray of the forearm are performed.

A radial or ulnar fracture will be visible on at least one view. This is usually as a linear lucency. It is important to determine the fracture type (e.g. transverse, oblique, comminuted) and displacement (translation, angulation, rotation).

If there is only one fracture, it is important to look for a second fracture, or see if there is damage to the proximal or distal radioulnar joint.

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