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Colles Fracture

The Most Common Broken Wrist


Updated July 25, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

broken wrist
(c) Sabrina Cherry

Put your hand out to stop your fall on the way down and you're likely to suffer the most common of all broken wrists: the Colles fracture.

Usually caused by a broken radius bone (the big forearm bone on the same side as your thumb) the Colles fracture has a very recognizable shape. This common deformed wrist is often described as a "dinner fork" fracture because of the way the new bend in the wrist looks like the neck of your grandma's favorite silverware.

This is one of those broken bones that usually elicits a reaction when you see it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you cringed at the sight of this picture and even said, "Ouch!"

Any deformity (odd shape that doesn't look the way anatomy is supposed to look) should be seen by a doctor. It's not necessary to call 911 for a fractured arm or wrist. You don't even have to go to an ER, however you will have to get an x-ray. If your doctor doesn't offer that service in the office, then expect to go to an imaging center.

If it will be a while before you see the doctor, properly splinting the broken wrist can relieve a lot of pain. To keep swelling and pain to tolerable levels, follow RICE after you splint it (in this case it's rest, ice and elevation -- compression is skipped because of the splint).

Remember not to ice an injury more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time and allow it to warm up again before putting the ice back on. Leaving ice on an injury too long, especially if you put it directly on the skin, can lead to frostbite from the ice pack.

Colles fractures often heal just fine with proper splinting, usually by immobilizing with a cast. In some extreme cases, surgery might be necessary.

Have a picture of your own broken bone? Share your pictures of fractures, burns and other injuries here.

Any opinions expressed here are for educational purposes only and are not intended for diagnosis.

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