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What is the Galeazzi Fracture?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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The Galeazzi fracture might better be named the Cooper fracture since this is the doctor who first described this injury in the 19th century. Dr. Galeazzi gets the credit though, discussing the presence of this type of fracture in the 1930s. This is a severe fracture affecting the radius bone (the lower arm bone on the thumb side), and that always presents with a dislocated distal radial ulnar joint (DRUJ), which is where the two lower arm bones meet at the wrist.

Among fractures in the arm, the Galeazzi fracture is not that common and estimates suggest only about three to possibly seven percent of arm fractures involve this particular arrangement. There is also data that makes it clear men are more likely to suffer this type of fracture than are women. Depending on the circumstances the fracture may be open, and this dangerous scenario cannot wait for treatment. Unless it presents with other more severe injuries, treatment of an open Galeazzi fracture needs to occur right away.

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There are different ways in which this fracture might be treated. In adults, whether the injury is open or closed, surgery is always necessary to properly address the DRUJ and to stabilize the radius bone. In some circumstances the fracture additionally presents with breaks in the ulna, or other forearm bone, which could be addressed or stabilized at time of surgery too. Surgery may mean putting pins in to achieve reduction (stability), and these are usually left in for about four weeks. Pin removal doesn’t mean avoiding casting or splinting, and after pins are out people can usually expect to remain in a restrictive splint at least four more weeks.

In children with a closed Galeazzi fracture, reduction is very likely attempted closed, without any form of surgery. Avoiding this in adults is usually impossible, as it will likely cause permanent damage to the DRUJ and restrict movement in the future. Kids have bones that heal faster and more predictably and they may escape surgery much of the time. Doctors would, of course, recommend it, if the fracture seems particularly severe.

Recovery time from a Galeazzi fracture is about two months and might necessitate some physical therapy after splinting to regain motion in the joint. Some of these fractures take yet longer to heal or don’t heal well. This may depend on age, extent of injury and success of surgery. Roughly 40% of these fracture repairs have some level of complication, but complications are highest when surgical repair is not attempted in adults.

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