Open reduction for distal radius & ulnar styloid fracture

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On 24th August I tripped up on a paving slab while rushing to catch a train and fell heavily on my left arm leaving me with a nasty distal radius and styloid ulna fracture. I spent the night in hospital and the following day I underwent open reduction surgery to pin and plate the broken pieces (4 I think) together. I was given a nerve block as well as general anaesthetic which was a godsend as it meant I didn't feel anything for nearly 24 hours. I left hospital with my wrist in a thick crepe bandage, a wrist brace and a sling. The hospital didn't give me any guidance on what I should or shouldn't do once discharged so I just kept it in the sling and slept with it on a pillow at night.

When sensation returned the next day I was surprised that I wasn't in terrible pain and managed to get by on a couple of 500mg paracetamol and one Tramadol just on the first night. My fingers were swollen and red for a few days but I was able to move them. My GP signed me off work for a week but after taking 3 days off I felt I should make an effort and go in, although I couldn't do my normal range of tasks. I work in a very small privately owned jewellers shop and one person down makes a big impact. I have had to find coping strategies to try to do everyday things - using teeth, knees etc to hold things instead of left hand (thankfully I'm right handed). 

Yesterday I went back to the hospital to have my stitches removed. I was dreading how my arm/wrist would look, but it wasn't bad at all - no bruising and not particularly swollen. However I do have some loss of sensation around the inside base of my thumb which is probably due to nerve damage from surgery.  I was very surprised that after removing the thick bandage and taking out the stitches, I was put back in a tubular bandage and wrist support only. I had expected to have a short arm cast for another few weeks at least. The doctor who saw me said that the metalwork was doing the job of a cast so it wasn't necessary to have one. I was given a sheet of exercises to start on and told that at the end of 4 weeks I should no longer be wearing the brace. I asked the Dr about recovery time and whether I would get back full use of my wrist.  The depressing answer was that it won't ever be the same again as before the fracture, and I'm looking at a year for recovery.  I'm also a candidate for a DEXA scan at 57 having previously fractured my ankle and a big toe!

For the rest of the day my wrist wasn't too uncomfortable although I wasn't attempting to do anything with it.  However today it was a different story and it has been excruciatingly painful if I lust changed position of my arm, let alone trying to start exercising it. I know I have to do it but I'm dreading it all the same.  i don't know whether the NHS will provide any physio appointments for me but I would like to have professional help to rehabilitate my wrist so may have to find and pay for private physio sessions. 

I managed to gain full use of my broken ankle over time, but the wrist is going to be much more of a challenge I think. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has been unfortunate enough to experience something similar and how recovery is progressing.

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    I have similar injury. Told no surgery though. In plaster four weeks one day. Told it would be six. Quiried it and told sometimes five. Given splint no info. Toss and turn a lot so splint worn at night...tend to press with this wrist to get up! Physio apt image today. Told deformed when plaster off and eighty per cent use age! Skin peeling despite cream, oh joy. Right handed so can't work. 
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    • Posted

      I'm sorry to hear it's your right hand - that's a blow.  How long ago was your fracture? I guess it must be a 'stable' fracture if the bone suffered more than one break but didn't need surgery. In some ways you're lucky to have avoided that, although I think it takes longer to rehabilitate the wrist if you have a cast for several weeks. My hand looks weird but it still has some swelling and a lot of numbness due to nerve damage which I think is inevitable with a 3 inch incision and stitches on the inside of my arm. I have very little range of movement at the moment which is scary.

      When I broke my ankle about 9 years ago and the plaster came off six weeks later, my lower leg looked like a tree trunk, but in a few months it regained its shape so I'm sure your arm and hand will start to find its shape again when the swelling and puffiness has subsided once out of plaster and you start gently exercising it. Keep moisturising too!

      Good luck with your recovery - we both need to be patient and keep exercising to restore lost mobility.  Are you having physio? 

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  • Posted

    August 6th few weeks before my birthday. 12 years ago I fell and broke the left wrist.thats got a plate in. I start physio on 22nd. I am 62, what's a dexaa scan? Start of arthritis as well....oh joy. Because arm and wrist no idea how long before decent usage. What a pair!
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    • Posted

      Yes indeed, what a pair! Okay, you're a few weeks ahead of me then. You've been really unlucky with this second wrist + arm fracture - are you feeling much pain?  How is your 12 year old wrist fracture these days?  I know that arthritis is pretty much unavoidable after a fracture and I'll have that to look forward to as well. A DEXA scan is to check bone density and prevent onset of osteoporosis. It's a routine check because I broke a wrist coupled with my age. 
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    • Posted

      A bit weaker than it used to be. Arthritis started around thumb area. That's in the family anyway. I am worried how much the wrist will be deformed. Pain worse in certain movements which until you do them you don't know. Only five weeks though so just the joy of physioltherapy.....that is going to hurt. Got to work on arm wrist and shoulder. Wish you lived near I could answer the phone you could do the writing...
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    • Posted

      How are you doing?  I hope you're making some progress and pain is lessening since your last post. Yesterday I had my DEXA scan and follow up on wrist with the surgeon at the hospital. Saw scary x-Ray with plate and 9 screws holding my distal radius together. One broken section of the bone is out of alignment and not healing so I don't know what'll happen if this doesn't improve over the next 3 weeks when I have to go back again - hopefully not more surgery. Told not to weight bear yet. Wrist and forearm aching and numbness on palm still there. No NHS physio offered by GP or hospital, and very grumpy and uncommunicative surgeon yesterday so feel the support I'm getting isn't great. Having to fund private physio sessions 😕 Hope your news is better than mine! 
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  • Posted

    7 week follow-up shows one of the pieces of my broken radius sitting under the plate is out of alignment so unable to weight bear yet. Have to go back to see surgeon in 3 weeks for another check. Eating lots of whitebait and taking calcium tablets, but I don't know whether they're any help at all. Has anyone out there had problems with healing of a distal radius fracture that's been fixed with ORIF? Do let me know if it came good in the end without additional surgery. 
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    • Posted

      Oh no. Can't help on this post. Disgusting about physio. How dare you think grumpy will help....if private would fawn over you. Bad very bad not to offer help! 
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    • Posted

      How how is your wrist looking now?  You were worried about it being deformed.  I have the same problem. My hand looks like it's on the end of a selfie stick! The hand physio thinks that it's been set too far forwards and this is limiting my movement.  I'm really concerned that I might have to have more surgery to correct it. Going to see the surgeon again next week so will ask him if he thinks it's okay, but if anything like last time I'm not hopeful that he'll be very informative or reassuring. May have to seek a second opinion. i hope you're making better progress.
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  • Posted

    Not as bad as I thought. After a few exercises the arm has gone back to shape. Having physio, hoped would be the last...nope room for improvement although done well. Got discharged from fracture clinic, and can go back to work. My cast which I was told would be for six weeks became four. Then splint not told how long for!  as I was not sent a letter I rang up, told to take off for as long as I could cope. Off indoors, on when out. I went in taxis so didn't want to get bumped! I book hospital notes out to departments and write apt in book. That will be fun...

    i am sorry to read you are still are still suffering. Moving my arm can give me pain in certain ways. Pain getting less round base of thumb but I think mine was weight of plaster., I was told never be the same, but looking good. Can't hold heavy items still. But have now got Osteo arthritis in fingers, in the family so fracture didn't help....I can't clench my fist very well. The exercises will slowly get easier. If they told you ten times build up from two to three. Keep me up to date

    it was my right wrist/arm...I am right handed...

     

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    • Posted

      Good to hear your fears about your arm being misshapen have gone away now and you're able to go back to work - hope that goes okay and doesn't make it too painful. Received the results of my DEXA scan yesterday and have been diagnosed with osteopenia which is a precursor to osteoporosis so probably explains the damage I did to my wrist. I'll post again after I see the surgeon in a couple of days. Good luck for the return to work and continuing improvement.
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