Abstract Thirty-two unilateral Colles' fractures were reviewed after one year to assess the evidence for carpal malalignment. Various radiographic parameters on the injured and uninjured wrists were correlated with a functional score. There was significant correlation with respect to the angles measuring carpal alignment on the late films and the functional score which was not present on either the initial or post-manipulation films. The carpus aligns in a dorsal instability pattern. Radial angulation or shortening was not found to be as significant in either the early or late films. This suggests that dorsal instability as the cause of morbidity after Colles' fracture is far commoner than originally thought.