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Colles' Fracture

A-Z Index

Colles' fracture is a break across the end of the main bone of the forearm. It results in a backward and outward position of the hand in relation to the forearm. This injury is usually the result of trauma from a fall in which an attempt is made to break the fall using the hands and arms. It is frequently associated with sports like rollerblading, skateboarding, running, or any other activity in which the hands might be used to prevent a foreword fall occurring at relatively high speed.

Wrist fractures are most common among children and the elderly. Children's bones are soft and tend to get buckle fractures -- partial fractures on one side of the bone. Because bones become brittle with age, fractures are also common among the elderly. In older people, particularly those with osteoporosis, the radius may fracture just above the wrist, resulting in a colles' fracture.

The clinical staff at Virtua's Fracture Center – which is geared towards older adults - is experienced and compassionate. They use the most advanced diagnostics and treatments to optimize care and recovery. Virtua also has a comprehensive Sports Medicine Program.

Virtua's comprehensive and interdisciplinary program includes board-certified orthopedic surgeons, a board-certified geriatric specialist, primary care physicians, nurses with advanced training in orthopedics and gerontology, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers.

Each patient is co-managed by an orthopedic surgeon and a primary care doctor or geriatric specialist. The team collaborates to manage pain and, when necessary, expedite surgical intervention. This proven approach helps patients achieve a faster recovery than traditional treatment approaches.

Treatment may range from simple immobilization with a splint and sling to a lightweight fiberglass cast. If cast immobilization is insufficient to repair the fracture, surgery may be necessary and the break may need to be fixed with a plate and screws, pins, or an external fixation device.

Older people with Colles' fractures often fail to regain full mobility of the wrist joint. Carpal tunnel syndrome may occur as an early or late complication of the injury. Chronic pain may result from injury to the ligaments or the joint surface of the wrist. In addition, in older patients, the fracture is usually related to osteoporosis, so treatment for osteoporosis is advised.

For patients who need hospital care after surgery, there are floors dedicated to orthopedic patients at Virtua Marlton and Virtua Memorial. These units specialize in the care of orthopedic patients and are staffed by nurses with additional education in orthopaedics. Physical therapy is also provided right on these orthopedic units.