Distal radius fractures and surgical negligence: can I make a claim?

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Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

Any injury to your hand or arm can be debilitating, and one of the most common injuries you can encounter is a distal radius fracture. This type of fracture accounts for between 25% to 50% of fractures.

In this guide, we will take a look at what a distal radius fracture is and the complications you may suffer. We also explore surgical negligence with regards to this injury and how you can make a claim. Finally, we explain how a medical malpractice solicitor like Wake Smith can help you, and why it's so essential to seek legal advice when making a personal injury claim.

What is a distal radius fracture, and what are the common examples?

A distal radius fracture is a type of broken wrist that often needs surgical intervention to be corrected. It involves a break to the radius bone near to the wrist - this is the large bone that runs down your forearm, so it can also be part of a larger break. If you suffer from a distal radius fracture, you will usually notice pain around the fractured wrist immediately, as well as some significant swelling or signs of bruising. It is also possible that your wrist may appear to be at an odd and crooked angle.

There are three common types of distal radius fracture:

  • A Colles fracture: this occurs when the fracture shifts the radius bone into an upward position; you will be able to see this break.
  • A Smith's fracture: this occurs when the radius becomes displaced, usually shifting towards your palm.
  • A Barton's fracture: this occurs when you have suffered from a compression injury, and can be more challenging to diagnose as there is often no clear deformity.

What complications and risks can a distal radius fracture cause?

While you might not think a broken wrist is serious, a distal radius fracture can cause unexpected complications such as damage to your ligaments and soft tissue, or irritation of the tendons. Malunion can also occur when the two parts of the break do not heal correctly due to being misaligned or incorrect treatment, causing deformity in patients that can be difficult to correct. In serious cases, a rupture can take place.

Patients also report permanent wrist pain and stiffness after a wrist fracture, especially with improper care and treatment - this can even lead to arthritis in the wrist.

If you would like to discuss your wrist injury claim with a qualified professional, our experienced medical negligence solicitors are here to help.

Surgical negligence and distal radius fractures

Distal radius fractures are not always caused by a fall or accident - sometimes they can actually occur during surgery to correct a different issue. It is possible for surgery to correct a wrist fracture to go wrong, such as if malunion occurs. This can be because a surgeon has improperly set your wrist by, for example, using a split rather than a full cast, and even not using a surgical option such as metal pins when this is necessary.

Nerve or blood vessel damage is another way in which you may suffer from surgical negligence.

Negligence can also occur due to fractures being missed on x-rays. Although, due to the delicate nature of your wrist, surgical negligence can be more damaging in many cases.

How can I make a surgical negligence claim for my fracture?

If you suffer from medical negligence relating to a distal radius fracture, knowing how to make a claim for compensation can be challenging. There are some steps you can take to make it easier. You may have letters, emails, and any correspondence that has occurred between yourself and the negligent party or body.

However, contacting a law firm that is skilled in pursuing medical negligence claims, such as Wake Smith as early as possible will enable you to receive guidance and assistance in pursuing your claim.

You should also keep a careful log and details of the harm you encountered due to surgical negligence and the consequences of this. These might include permanent damage to your wrist, traumatic complications such as ruptures, increased pain, and missing work due to a longer recovery time.

How can a medical negligence solicitor help me?

Seeking legal advice is the most important step you can take when pursuing a claim. An experienced medical negligence solicitor can advise you of the likelihood of your claim being successful, and look over your documentation to see if it is thorough enough to prove a valid claim. They will also know how to liaise with medical bodies and assist you whether your claim is settled, or if it proceeds to court.

However, clinical negligence solicitors will always work to keep your case out of court wherever possible.

How Wake Smith can help

Wake Smith has longstanding specialist experience in pursuing various kinds of claims regarding medical negligence. If you believe that you have been the victim of surgical negligence, in the first instance you should contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Should you decide to pursue your claim, we will gather your evidence and proceed to liaise with the medical body in question on your behalf.

If there is an admission of liability, a settlement will be made - however, if no liability is admitted, this can lead to a lengthier discussion and the potential need to settle in court. Wake Smith will represent your interests if this occurs, aiming for the best outcome for your claim.

Common queries

Is a distal radius fracture serious?

A distal radius fracture is a serious injury in that it will require medical intervention in order to heal correctly. While the seriousness of the injury can vary based on your bone health, the subtype of fracture suffered, and the treatment you receive, the consequences of improper care can be extremely damaging to long-term wrist function and overall quality of life.

Is surgery necessary for a distal radius fracture?

Whether or not surgery is necessary will depend on the severity of the break, and the kind of break. Some distal radius fracture injuries can be healed using a cast alone, but if you have encountered nerve damage, your wrist may need to be pinned.

What are the common causes of distal radius fractures?

A distal radius fracture is commonly caused by a fall or by being in an accident of some kind. If you fall and catch yourself with the flat of your hand, this can cause a fracture to occur. You may also suffer from a distal radius fracture if you are predisposed to bone injuries, such as if you already have osteoporosis. In those without osteoporosis, trauma is the leading cause of this kind of break.

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Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

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