Distal Radius Fracture (ORIF)

The radius is one of the paired bones comprising the forearm. It is located on the thumb side (the other paired bone is the ulna, located on the small finger side). The distal radius fracture is one of the most common fractures of the arm and usually follows a fall on an outstretched hand. Symptoms of a distal radius fracture include wrist pain after an injury or fall, loss of wrist motion, and swelling. You should also be cautious about decreased circulation to the hand or numbness/tingling, as that could indicate possible injury to the blood vessels or nerves supplying the hand.

There are many variations of distal radius fractures, but most are corrected with surgery. This surgery involves making an incision and aligning the broken bones back into place. A combination of plates and screws are placed to hold the bones in place to allow the fracture to heal.  

This surgery is performed on an outpatient basis meaning you will be able to go home that day. You will be discharged in a temporary splint that must be kept clean and dry until you are seen for follow up with your surgeon, usually the next day. It is important to elevate your arm on a couple of pillows to alleviate pain and swelling. 

At your follow up appointment, we will write you a prescription for a volar splint. You will need to wear the splint at all times, except when showering. You are able to shower 48 hours after surgery; however, it is important that you do not submerge your surgical incision in water (i.e. no bath tubs, swimming pools, washing dishes, etc.). While showering, it is important you do not use your hand/arm. After showering, pat incision dry and replace splint. We do encourage you to move your fingers while wearing the splint.

Sutures will be removed 10-14 days after surgery. Typically follow up appointments are scheduled at two-week intervals after surgery so we can monitor your recovery. Occupational therapy will most likely begin 6 weeks after surgery, as indicated by your surgeon. The splint will gradually be discontinued in the weeks to follow as you progress with occupational therapy and your lifting restrictions will gradually be increased over the next 2-3 months, as indicated by your healthcare provider. At 8 weeks, you can return to light duty/activities (i.e- golf 'short' game), but please discuss with your doctor before returning. 

You may resume your regular diet after surgery; however, you should start slow. It is a good idea to start with things like toast, Jell-O, crackers, and soup to see how your stomach tolerates food after anesthesia. Drink plenty of fluids such as water or Gatorade and limit your intake of sodas, coffee and other caffeinated beverages.  

We will send you home with a prescription for an antibiotic and a pain medication. It is important to take your antibiotic and pain medication with food to prevent nausea (unless you are instructed otherwise). Do not take your pain medication and antibiotic at the same time as this may upset your stomach; separate them by an hour or two. You cannot drive while taking pain medication.

Should you develop any of the following signs and or symptoms of possible infection, call our office immediately:

  1. Fever over 100.3
  2. Chills or night sweats
  3. Unusual swelling, redness, or warmth to your incision site
  4. Purulent drainage from incision site.

Please do not hesitate to call our office with any concerns or questions you may have.

Please remember the above instructions are only a guide. Always listen to the instructions given by your healthcare provider and follow those if in conflict with any listed above

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