B11. Forearm fractures. Distal radius fractures.

Page created on October 25, 2021. Last updated on October 27, 2021 at 12:52


  • Forearm fractures are some of the most common open fractures. Simple fractures involve only either the radius or ulna, without ant dislocation. Complex fractures involve both fracture and dislocation. These injuries occur due to direct trauma or fall onto outstretched arm. As the forearm is basically a joint, the goal should be anatomical reduction and absolute stability. Treatment is surgical.
  • Galeazzi fracture-dislocations involve fracture of the distal radius and dislocation of the radioulner joint.
  • Monteggia fracture-dislocations involve fracture of the proximal ulna and dislocation of the radial head.
  • Distal radius fractures are common fractures, especially of the elderly. They occur due to fall on outstretched arm. Colles fracture is an extraarticular fracture with dorsal angulation of the fragment. Smith fracture is an extraarticular fracture with ventral angulation of the fragment. The median nerve may be injured. Non-dislocated fractures are treated conservatively; dislocated fractures are treated surgically.

Forearm fractures

Definition and epidemiology

Forearm fractures have the second highest ratio of open to closed fractures among all fractures. They’re also common in children.

We distinguish simple forearm fractures from complex ones. Simple fractures are isolated fractures of the radius or ulna (sometimes called nightstick fracture). Complex fractures are fractures occurring with dislocations. The three most important complex fractures are:

Name Fracture location Dislocation location
Galeazzi Distal radius Radioulnar joint
Monteggia Proximal ulna Radial head
Essex-Lopresti Radial head Radioulnar joint (+ interosseus disruption)


Direct trauma to forearm, fall from height onto outstretched and pronated forearm, high energy trauma.

Clinical features

Deformity, pain, swelling, loss of function. Neurovascular injuries. Compartment syndrome.

Diagnosis and evaluation

X-ray is usually sufficient. In case of Essex-Lopresti injury there is radio-ulnar dissociation.


The forearm is basically a joint, and so the goal of management (as for all joints) should be anatomical reduction and absolute stability. Treatment is almost always surgical with ORIF or OREF.

Distal radius fractures

Definition and epidemiology

Distal radius fractures are one of the most common fractures, especially of elderly women.


Fall on outstretched arm with dorsiflexed wrist (Colles fracture) or palmar flexed wrist (Smith facture).


We distinguish multiple type of distal radius fractures:

Type Description
Colles fracture Extraarticular fracture with dorsal angulation of the fragment
Smith fracture Extraarticular fracture with ventral angulation of the fragment
Barton fracture Intraarticular with associated dorsal displacement (radiocarpal dislocation)
Chauffeur fracture Avulsion fracture of radial styloid

Clinical features

Pain, swelling, deformation, displacement. Median nerve injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Diagnosis and evaluation



Conservative treatment with closed reduction + splint is used for fractures without dislocation or with minimal dislocation.

Surgical treatment with ORIF is used for dislocated fractures.

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