Distal Radius Fracture

Fractured distal radius

Fractured distal radius

The radius is a bone in your forearm. A distal radius fracture means that this bone is broken (fractured) at the wrist. Most distal radius fractures are caused by falling and landing on an outstretched hand. A splint or plaster cast is commonly used to keep the bones in place while healing occurs, however if this is not adequate, some distal radius fractures may require surgery.

The surgical procedure most often used to treat a distal radius fracture is called an “Open Reduction and Internal Fixation” or “ORIF”. The surgery involves using a metal plate with screws to piece the bones back together. In many cases, this allows immediate motion at the wrist after surgery.

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation

Wound Care

Following surgery for a distal radius fracture, your Doctor will give you advice about how to care for your wound. In general, the following advice applies:

  • Keep the wound dry and clean when showering i.e. cover with plastic bag, until the day after the steri strips or sutures are removed.
  • Do not change the dressing yourself, unless asked to by your therapist or doctor.
  • Please contact your doctor or therapist if you have any concerns about the wound.


Your therapist will fabricate a thermoplastic splint which is worn to protect and rest your joints, relieve pain and allow easy application for exercises and wound care.

  • Wrist-OrthosisYou will generally be required to wear your splint for up to 6 weeks.
  • Your therapist may advise you that your splint can be removed for showering. Make sure you keep your wound dry until it is healed and you no longer require a dressing.
  • Avoid placing your splint in the sun, in a closed car, near/on a heater or in hot water. Heat can alter the shape of your splint causing it to fit incorrectly and lose its shape.
  • Your splint can be washed in cold, soapy water daily and towelled dry.
  • Please do not attempt to adjust your splint. Contact your therapist if any adjustments are necessary.
  • Please contact your therapist if you experience pain, skin irritation, pressure, swelling, pins and needles, changes in skin colour or temperature.



Your therapist will advise you if you are required to complete the exercises shown above. These exercises may help to prevent joint stiffness and muscle shortening. It is important that you perform these exercises within your pain limits.