Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Wrist FAQ


I had a few beers too many and got in a fist fight two days ago. The doctor says I have a broken wrist. I can either wear a cast for six weeks or have surgery to pin the bone together. Which one is better?


Treating wrist fractures that aren't displaced is usually done with casting. A displaced fracture means the bones don't line up together. One side of the fracture has shifted up, down, or away from the other bone.

Casting a displaced fracture isn't a good idea because the bone heals in the misaligned position.

When casting a nondisplaced fracture, the wrist is out of action for a little over a month. It takes a few more weeks to get your motion and strength back when the cast comes off.

With surgery, a screw is placed to hold the two bones together. No cast is required so motion is restored sooner. You'll probably be able to get back to work sooner, depending on what you do.

There are always increased risks with surgery of any kind. Many doctors suggest treating the fracture with casting and watching it carefully. If X-rays show it isn't healing then surgery can be done at that time. Usually the need for further treatment is clear by six weeks.

J. J. Dias, MD, FRCS, et al. Should Acute Scaphoid Fractures Be Fixed? In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. October 2005. Vol. 87-A. No. 10. Pp. 2160-2168.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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