Q: I tripped while walking my dog and landed on my left wrist. I felt a crack, looked down and my wrist appeared crooked. I went to the emergency room and they straightened it out, put me in a splint and referred me to a hand specialist. I saw the doctor yesterday and she told me when the swelling goes down, I need surgery to keep the fracture in place. My wrist looks straight and I wonder why I just can’t wear a cast until it heals rather than have surgery.
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A: For many years, wrist fractures were treated by aligning the break as straight as possible and wearing a cast until it healed. However, many patients lost considerable motion, had persistent pain, developed arthritis and were upset at the not so straight appearance.
If a wrist fracture is out of place or involves a displacement of the joint surface, it will likely require surgery to align the bones and have a plate and screws inserted to keep the fracture stable. Surgery usually allows a shorter period of immobilization post op, as well as beginning rehab earlier to get as normal a result as possible. Surgery is easier if it is done soon after the injury and I recommend you follow your doctor’s advice or at least get another opinion.