Your forearm includes two long, thin bones: the ulna and the radius. These two bones are connected by joints at the elbow and the wrist. A Galeazzi fracture is a break of the radius between the mid-portion of the radius and the wrist.
A fracture can be the complete or partial break of a bone. It also involves a dislocation of the ulna at the wrist. A dislocation means a bone has slipped out of a joint.
Read on to learn more about this type of fracture.
How to tell if you have a Galeazzi fracture
Your forearm may look crooked if you have a Galeazzi fracture. This type of fracture is incredibly painful and can make it difficult to move your arm. You may also feel pain or tingling elsewhere on the affected arm and in the hand.
A bruise will usually form around the site of the fracture. If the break is severe, bone may break through the skin. In that case, the injury should be treated as a medical emergency. Don’t hesitate to get yourself or your child to the emergency room.
If you’re injured, don’t drive yourself to the emergency room. Instead, have someone drive you or call your local emergency services to have an ambulance sent to transport you to the hospital. You may become lightheaded and have trouble concentrating on the road.
If the arm doesn’t look crooked, but the pain doesn’t get better within a day, the injury should still be evaluated by a doctor.
What causes this type of fracture?
One of the main causes of a Galeazzi fracture is falling. A person who stretches out an arm for protection before hitting the ground risks breaking a bone in the wrist or arm. The impact can also cause the ulna to become dislocated.
Any kind of blunt trauma, such as a car accident, can cause a Galeazzi fracture. Children and adults who play contact sports or engage in certain risky behaviors where falls are likely, such as rock climbing, are at increased risk.
Diagnosing a Galeazzi fracture
Your doctor will carefully examine the injured arm. They’ll ask you to review your symptoms and details about how the injury occurred. X-rays will be necessary to confirm the severity and location of the break.
X-rays can also show if there are multiple pieces of broken bone. The images will show if there’s been a dislocation, too.
How are they treated?
Most Galeazzi fractures will require surgery, except possibly in a child. Surgery requires an open reduction. In this procedure, the bones are put back into place and a plate and screws are used to keep the fractured bones together. A wire, screw, or other device is used to keep the dislocated ulna in place. A splint or cast will be placed on your wrist for comfort and to help secure the wrist and forearm while it’s healing.
While at home, you should be careful not to bump or jar the arm. You should also avoid lifting heavy objects. Even if you feel better, you should be careful not to re-injure your arm. If you have surgery, you’ll be advised not to lift weights for at least six weeks after the operation.
Ice can be placed on the injury right away if the skin hasn’t been broken. It’s extremely important to keep the arm elevated for several days after treatment, too. This can help reduce swelling and ease the pain.
What’s recovery like?
Physical therapy is usually required once the cast is removed from the arm. The therapy will focus mostly on regaining a range of motion and flexibility in the wrist and forearm.
Strength training will begin much later. Even after the cast is removed, everyday tasks may be difficult for a while as you continue to recover. Tasks that may be difficult include things like turning a doorknob, cooking, and getting dressed.
Expect a full recovery to take up to one year. There may be some lingering or occasional pain during this time. Tell your doctor about any pain or limitations in movement during your follow-up appointments.
In children, the bones don’t always heal correctly. The bones might start to move apart. In these cases, another surgery is necessary to pin the bones together. This is followed by more time in a cast.
What’s the outlook?
Your outlook depends on the severity of the injury. Children sometimes have a more difficult time with this injury, especially if the growth plates of the bones are involved.
In some cases, nerves are damaged, especially the nerve that controls pinching between the thumb and index finger. Nerves may repair themselves, or they may leave lingering symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness.
Older adults who experience a Galeazzi fracture may start to experience osteoarthritis in the broken wrist. Symptoms of this condition include stiffness and soreness. Symptoms may come and go. Pain relievers and physical therapy may help ease your discomfort.
A full recovery is possible after a Galeazzi fracture. The key is to be patient, report all symptoms to your doctor, and follow your doctor’s orders strictly. If you’re advised to give up certain sports or other activities, find some hobbies that won’t put you at risk for another fracture.