Wrist surgery does not typically shorten the healing time of a broken wrist. With or without surgery, recovery takes at least six weeks, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. However, sometimes the broken bones are so out of position that they require surgery for proper healing.
Sometimes bone fragments that must be moved back into place are able to be realigned without surgery, AAOS explains. This is called a closed reduction. If the broken wrist bone is well-positioned, treatment typically involves a splint and cast. Splints are sometimes used first to allow swelling to decrease. Within a week, a cast is placed on the joint.
Swelling often recedes for two or three weeks, so another cast is needed, states AAOS. This is left in place until the wrist has been immobile for six weeks. Some patients then require physical therapy to regain full motion and function.
If the wrist bone is severely misaligned, the surgeon opens the area to correct the problem, AAOS reveals. There are several options for maintaining the alignment of the bone: steel or titanium pins, plates and screws, a cast, or an external device that holds bones in position. Sometimes more than one of these options are combined. Casts sometimes loosen when swelling diminishes and must be replaced. The final cast is removed after six weeks.