How long does it take an ulnar fracture to heal? How long does it take an ulnar fracture to heal?
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How long does it take an ulnar fracture to heal?

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How long does it take an ulnar fracture to heal?

WHAT IS AN ULNAR STYLOID FRACTURE?

Ulnar styloid fracture is a term used to describe a fracture in the ulnar styloid process. The forearm comprises two bones known as the “Radius” and the “Ulna“. 

The ulna bone is located at the other side of the wrist which is from the elbow of the forearm to the wrist. While the radius is the bone from the wrist down to the thumb. 

The ulnar styloid process can be described as the joint located at the edge of the ulna just close to the pinky finger in the hand. It influences the rigidity and flexibility of the wrist making it a vital part of the forearm, therefore, it is detrimental to sustain a fracture in the ulna. 

People affected by the fracture tend to have hand motion problems, weakness experienced when gripping an object also feel pain. Therefore, a fracture around the edge of the ulna i.e ulna styloid process connecting to the radius is known as the “Ulnar Styloid Process Fracture“. 

The radius fracture which can be referred to as the “distal radius fracture” occurs at the edge of the radius and these are the most occurring fracture and according to statistics are responsible for about 20% of wrist fractures in the hospital or clinic. 

When the distal radius fracture occurs, surgery is required but the basic ulnar styloid fracture does not necessarily need surgery.

CAUSES OF AN ULNAR STYLOID FRACTURE

The ulnar styloid fracture can be caused by numerous deeds like while playing a sport, an accident, falling by tripping, or even as a result of a bike. Though, the major cause can be attributed to overstretching the arm.

Also, patients diagnosed with a pathological disorder know as “Osteoporosis” can spike the probability of an ulnar styloid fracture. 

Osteoporosis is a defect that makes the bone soft and weak making the boneless rigid than normal. Due to this defect, little actions can result in a fracture.

SYMPTOMS OF AN ULNAR STYLOID FRACTURE

Ulnar styloid fracture occurrence surely results in obvious pain in the form and due to the connection with the radius, a radius fracture is imminent. The pain for this case is different as the pain is felt inside the wrist close to the ulnar styloid process. 

Other symptoms associated with the ulnar styloid fracture are listed below:

  1. Swelling of the wrist.
  2. Redness.
  3. Tenderness.
  4. Bruises.
  5. Dislocation

For extreme cases, the hand is wrist might not be at the same angle like it should be.

ULNAR STYLOID FRACTURE DIAGNOSIS

When pain is felt in the wrist, it is advisable to see a doctor to perform the necessary tests and scans to draw his conclusions about the diagnosis. To screen the bone properly a computed tomography (CT) scan is utilized or an X-ray is performed on the patient to have oper imaging of any irregularities or dislocations in the wrist where the pain is felt.

ULNAR STYLOID FRACTURE TREATMENT

Treatment for this fracture can be categorized into non-surgical treatment and surgical treatment as the non-surgical treatment is done for the ulnar styloid fracture as the fracture is minimal while surgical treatment is performed for the distal radius fracture. These procedures are explained below:

Non-Surgical treatment

As stated earlier, these non-surgical treatment applies to the ulnar styloid process as this process just requires a wrist setting or realigning before applying a cast. The act of performing this treatment is called a reduction and it might not require any form of incision or cutting, this is known as a closed reduction. Also, internal fixation can be used to resolve the fracture.

Most doctors may recommend Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Ibuprofen to help reduce the pain in the wrist but if this does not help subside the pain, special strength medications will be prescribed by the doctor to ease the pain.

Surgical treatment

This is performed for extreme cases like the distal radius fracture and also bones surrounding the radius region. In this case, an open reduction is required when an incision will be made close to the affected area and the open space will be used to rearrange the bones affected. 

Metal screws can be used most times to place and hold the bones during the healing process. Pins can also be used as an alternative to metal screws.

After the open reduction is performed, a cast is applied and this cast is forged from materials like fiberglass or plaster.

ULNAR STYLOID FRACTURE RECOVERY

The time taken for an ulnar styloid fracture to heal is dependent on the severity of the fracture and the number of bones that were fractured. Swelling tends to be present over some time so a splint might be required to be placed on the wrist over this period to avoid the wrist from excess motion that could slow down the process of healing.

For patients with the urgency of a cast, the cast is to remain on the wrist for weeks aiding the reduction of the swelling and simultaneously healing the fractured bone. The cast might lose its integrity, thereby, requiring a replacement which one replaced, further assists in reducing the swollen bone.

For cases where the fractures are more severe than usual, a cast is placed immediately after the surgery process and follow-ups will be done by performing an X-ray regularly to monitor the improvement and healing process.

After recovery, the cast can be removed, though, it might take a month or two to commence full activity with the injured wrist, and working out too always helps to speed up the healing process. The maximum time for recovery is 12 months. If after six months, the patient still feels pain, consulting the doctor will be the best option. Though stiffness can last for up to 2 years.

FAQs

  • What does a fractured ulna feel like?

A great amount of pain is experienced when the ulna or ulnar styloid is fractured. Afterward swelling of the affected area occurs. Also, a cut might be possible by bone puncturing the skin or even an external factor all depending on the incident.

  • What happens if a fracture is left untreated?

If a fracture is left untreated for too long, two detrimental effects might occur. Nonunion means that the fractured bones can never heal i.e it remains broken forever and delayed union means delayed healing for the fractured ulna or radius as it takes a long while to heal and join together. 

  • How is a fractured ulna treated?

A fractured ulna does not require a surgical procedure as a basic case or forearm brace can be used to hold the bones together for tissues to heal and unite.

  • How long does it take an ulnar fracture to heal?

It can take a month or two to recover from an ulnar fracture, though, it is dependent on the severity of the fracture as sometimes it can take up to two years for optimum recovery.

  • Can a fractured ulna heal on its own?

A fractured ulna can heal on its own if it is not too disturbed as long as it is positioned at the correct position where it can heal by itself.

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