Overview of Colles’ Fracture


Overview of Colles’ Fracture

Within the world of bone fractures, some fractures are more common than others. One of the most common fractures is called a Colles’ fracture.

What is a Colles’ Fracture?

A Colles’ fracture is one of the most common types of wrist fractures. This is a fracture of the distal radius, or the part of the radius that is closest to where the forearm meets the hand. Specifically, the fractured portion is angled dorsally, or towards the side of the arm that is opposite the palm of the hand.

Watch Youtube Video Colles Fracture Overview – Warning: Some viewers may find this video too graphic.

What is the Mechanism of this Fracture?

This is one of the many traumatic injuries that occurs when people fall on an outstretched hand. When people fall on an outstretched hand, the force of the accident is absorbed by the palm of the hand and transmitted into the wrist, leading to a Colles’ fracture. While people may extend their arms to protect their organs against abdominal trauma, it does lead to this very common type of fracture.

Treatment Options

When the physician suspects that a patient has suffered a Colles’ fracture, they will order a series of x-rays first to analyze the fracture. The vast majority of fractures are not dislocated and can be treated with closed reduction in a caster for several weeks. If the fracture is severely dislocated or is an open fracture, alternative treatment options may be needed.

Complications of a Colles’ Fracture

There are several different complications that can result from a Colles’ fracture. The most common complication is malunion, or a complication that results from the bones not healing properly. This kind of complication is called a dinner fork deformity. Other complications include osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, leading to potential nerve damage.

Other Structures are at Risk

There are two notable structures that are at risk with a Colles’ fracture. The development of this fracture can lead to a tear of the extensor pollicis longus tendon, or the tendon that allows patients to extend their thumb. The other structure at risk is called the median nerve, a nerve that is damaged in carpal tunnel syndrome.

Differential Diagnosis

There are a variety of bone fractures on the differential diagnosis including:

Prognosis of a Colles’ Fracture

The vast majority of patients will make a full recovery following a few weeks in a cast after suffering a Colles’ fracture. Patients who may need a more guarded prognosis include elderly patients who may have a variety of comorbidities that need to be addressed.

Surgery May be Necessary

Patients who require surgery to correct a Colles’ fracture are patients who have suffered a fracture that is displaced or open. In this situation, patients will need an open reduction to place the bones back in their proper anatomical locations.

Woodland Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Woodland Personal Injury Lawyer.  Anyone who has suffered a Colles’ fracture in a traumatic accident should call me at (530) 392-9400 for friendly, free advice. For those outside of the area, I have a toll-free line at (800) 404-5400.

I am a member of the California chapter of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. This group of lawyers represents some of the top-rated trial attorneys in the country. The forum is limited to lawyers who have obtained verdicts worth more than $1 Million Dollars.

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Photo Attribution: Dsprenkels at nl.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], by way of Wikimedia Commons

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