Guest Column: Fractures of the Hand and Wrist – When Surgery is Necessary

Fractures of the Hand and Wrist – When Surgery is Necessary
By Porter Adventist Hospital

When trying to break a fall, most people will put an arm out.  Unfortunately, this often results in the wrist and hand bearing the brunt of the fall and injury. As people age, they also have less “spring in their step.” Mobility and flexibility become more limited, making it harder to avoid falls and easier to incur an injury. Thus, a wrist fracture is the most common broken bone in people under age 65.

If a wrist injury occurs, Dr. Carlton Clinkscales, a board certified hand surgeon at Porter Adventist Hospital and Hand Surgery Associates, recommends the “RICE” technique:  rest, ice, compression and elevation.

“Elevate the wrist as high as possible to reduce swelling,” he says. “If there is a visible deformity, or an open fracture, go to the emergency department.” The following factors indicate a possible wrist fracture:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Deformity
  • Protruding Bone

It is still imperative to seek out an urgent care facility or Emergency Department if you suffer from these symptoms. Injuries that are the result of high impact or high energy activities, such as workplace accidents or sports injuries, may come with varying pain levels that mask the extent of the injury. Only prompt medical attention can determine if further treatment is needed.

If you have a wrist injury and have been X-rayed in the Emergency Department, Dr. Clinkscales says you should request a copy of your X-rays before you leave. “Having this information available for your next appointment saves time and is helpful to the specialist,” he adds.  In most cases, fractures are treated with a cast if they are non-displaced, non-angulated, non-articular and stable. Depending on the complexity and placement of the fracture, your injury could also require surgery.

Some complex wrist fractures require pins, plates or an external fixation device to help the bones heal. The benefits of surgery for complex fractures include potentially faster healing time and range of motion, as well as maintaining the joint surface in order to decrease the risk of arthritis. Most patients who have wrist surgery are in a cast or splint for two to six weeks, in addition to receiving physical therapy. Within six to 10 weeks, most patients can return to some activities, and within three to six months, they should be able to resume almost all of their full activities.

About Porter Adventist Hospital

Porter Adventist Hospital is a full service, Nursing Magnet® designated, 368-bed acute-care referral center for complex medicine and surgery patients that specializes in cardiac care, cancer care, joint replacement, spinal care and transplant. Porter is sponsored by Adventist Health System and is part of Centura Health, Colorado’s largest hospital and healthcare network delivering advanced care to more than half a million people each year, across 12 hospitals, seven senior living communities, medical clinics, Flight for Life® and home care and hospice services. Porter’s and Centura’s strength lies in the ability to offer a team of connected networks and shared resources to deliver accessible, reliable and cost-effective health care across the state. For more information about Porter Adventist Hospital, visit or the Media Room at

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