A colle's fracture is a break in the distal part of the radius bone. The radius is one the bones of the forearm. The distal end is of the bone is considered part of the wrist. Distal radius fractures are categorized by type:

  • Open fracture—a broken bone that breaks through the skin
  • Comminuted fracture—a bone that breaks into more than two pieces
  • Intra-articular fracture—a broken bone within a joint
  • Extra-articular fracture—a broken bone that does not involve the joint

Intra-articular Colle's Fracture

Colle's Fracture
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
This sheet focuses on fracture of the distal radius. Fractures of other wrist bones]]> can be found on a separate sheet.



The most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a fall on an outstretched hand but it can also be caused by:

  • Direct blow to wrist by:
    • Car accident
    • Falling off a bike
    • Skiing fall
  • Other trauma

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of breaking your radius bone. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Osteoporosis]]>
  • Poor nutrition
  • Conditions that increase risk of falling:
    • Snow
    • Ice
    • Loss of agility or muscle strength
    • If you are elderly
  • Advancing age
  • Postmenopause
  • Decreased muscle mass



If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to a distal radius fracture. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Arm or wrist pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Severe pain with movement
  • Trouble moving wrist or arm
  • Wrist appears out of line


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. An orthopedist focuses on bones.

Your doctor will order the following test:

  • X-ray]]>—test that uses radiation to form an image; used to look at broken bones in the wrist or arm


It takes 6-10 weeks for a fracture of the radius at the wrist to heal. The type of treatment you receive depends upon where you broke your bone and how serious the break is.

Some fractures require what is called a reduction. This means the doctor realigns the bones before healing begins. Reductions can be done by the doctor moving your arm into position or through surgery.

Your doctor may choose to treat the fracture using a cast. Your cast may be removed after a few weeks and replaced if it loosens. Most casts are removed at about six weeks.

In other cases, a splint or a soft bandage may be used instead of a cast. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.


Your doctor may recommend that you take:


A distal radius fracture sometimes requires surgery. The surgeon first realigns the bones (a reduction). Then may use any of the following to hold the bones together as they heal:

  • A plate and screws
  • Pins
  • An external device that holds the inside pins together
You may be given a splint to wear after surgery to keep your arm from moving too much.

Physical Therapy

You will probably work with a physical therapist. They can help you regain range of motion and strength.


Your doctor may prescribe a pain medicine or suggest an over-the-counter pain reliever.



To help reduce your chance of fracturing your radius bone, take the following steps:

  • Practice good nutrition for bone health including adequate amounts of calcium]]> and ]]>vitamin D]]>.
  • Some sports such as in-line skating put you at risk, so consider wearing a wrist guard.
  • Keep your muscles strong to prevent falls.