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  • Steven J. Lee, MD

Winter Weather: Distal Radius and Radial Head Fractures

Black ice, slush, sleet, and snow greatly increase our risk of falls! This holiday season, be sure to take your time walking, avoid looking down at your phone, wear proper footwear, and be aware of possible black ice in your path.

This time of year we tend to see a rise in patients with fractures, especially Distal Radius fractures of the wrist and Radial Head fractures of the elbow. Both of these fractures are most commonly caused by a fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH).

Distal Radius fractures of the wrist typically present as pain, swelling, and bruising towards the thumb-side of the wrist. An X-ray is needed to determine if the bone is, in fact, broken. A common misconception is that if you can open and close your fingers, you do not have a broken bone. However, this is not true! Only an X-ray or diagnostic imaging can determine if the bone is fractured. The X-ray also helps Dr. Lee determine the position of fracture. If the fracture is not largely displaced, the distal radius fracture will be treated with immobilization. If the fracture is displaced, surgery may be advised. Many other factors come into play when making this decision which you can read more about here.

Radial Head fractures of the elbow also typically occur from a fall on an outstretched hand and therefore are more common in inclement weather. Typically patients present with pain and swelling at the outer elbow and even a sense of instability. Pain is typically worse with weight-bearing such as pushing oneself out of a chair. Radial Head fractures are also associated with forearm and wrist pain/injuries, so it is important to be assessed by a knowledgeable Orthopedist. Treatment options for Radial Head fractures depend largely on the position of the fracture (displacement) and if any other neighboring structures are involved. A non-displaced or minimally-displaced radial head fracture is often treated with a sling or splint. Physical Therapy is typically initiated early to avoid stiffening of the joint. A displaced radial head fracture may require surgery. You can read more about Radial Head fractures and treatment options here.

Dr. Steven Lee specializes in treatment of the wrist and elbow and is highly trained in treating Distal Radius wrist fractures and Radial Head elbow fractures. Dr. Lee is not only one of the most experienced surgeons in New York City treating these diagnoses, but he also routinely trains other surgeons on how to treat these fractures.  

Dr. Steven Lee is currently accepting new patients. He sees patients at NY Orthopedics in Manhattan, Scarsdale, and Westbury Long Island. We look forward to meeting you!

Keep safe this holiday season!

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