Does Your Broken Wrist Need Surgery?

Wrist fractures are the most common broken bone for people under 65 years old.  In fact, one out of every 6 fractures treated in the ER are wrist fractures!

Wrist Fracture Symptoms:

  • Wrist Pain
  • Swelling of or around the wrist
  • Deformity of the wrist

Wrist Fracture Treatment

Broken Wrist

Treatment for a wrist fracture can vary on a case by case basis.  Some wrist fractures can be treated in a cast.  Physicians can reset the fracture and cast it and the bones can heal themselves.  There are cases though when a wrist fracture needs surgery.    Physicians take into consideration other factors to determine whether a patient needs surgery such as:

  • Age of patient – if the patient is young and very active, physicians will do everything possible to restore the wrist to completely normal function.  As the patient gets older, he/she may not need perfect restoration of function.
  • Quality of the bone –  a patient must have good bone quality for surgery because surgery is traumatic to the bone.  If bones are thin and weak, surgery could be less beneficial.
  • Fracture location  – If cartilage in the wrist can not be lined up properly to heal well in a cast, physicians may have to do surgery to ensure full recovery of motion in the wrist.
  • Bone positioning – It can at times be difficult to hold bones in position during casting so surgery is needed to restore bones to proper position.

At Emory Orthopaedics and Spine, hand specialists Dr. Claudius Jarrett or I can many times decrease your recovery time and quicken your return to prior recreational activity with a minimally invasive surgery.  The recovery could be much less than the average 3 month period that many patients spend in a cast.

Patients should consult their physician right away if you suspect you have a broken wrist so they can evaluate and provide the best options for you and your particular case.

Gary McGillivary, MD, FRCSAbout Gary McGillivary, MD, FRCS

Gary R. McGillivary, M.D., is an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery. A native of Nova Scotia, Canada, he is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS). Dr. McGillivary started practicing at Emory in 1997.  Dr. McGillivary specializes in upper extremity surgery (particularly wrist and elbow), fracture care, and carpal tunnel syndrome. He is published in various medical journals and is active in professional societies in the United States and Canada.

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  • diane

    Hi, my name is diane I am 65 years old, I broke my wrist 2 weeks ago, has ben reset 3 times. I just want to know how long do you think it will take to heal. Thank you.

    • Hi Diane,

      Fracture healing will typically heal in about 6 weeks no matter how it is treated. What is more important is whether the fracture heals in a correct position, and it often requires surgery to maintain an adequate position. I hope this answers your question, but let me know if there’s more info I can provide for you.

  • ann

    Hi, my name is Ann and i am 15 years old ,i have broken my left wrist 3 times. the fist time i went to see a doctor but he didn’t say much what’s wrong with my wrist and he just recommend me to use a splint and thats all ,but i didn’t took care much for that and then the second time happens the same thing wth the doctor but my hand hunted more than the first time, the third time i went to see another doctor and i did a bunch of X-rays and we found out that i had a fracture with my boun and a broken wrist, then i used a splint for 6 weeks and after that the doctor said that everything was ok but it’s not it just keeps hurting and i can’t move it fast or handle things or do the stuffs that i can do easily with my right hand. I just want to know what should i do. Thank you.