The purpose of this study was to analyze radiographic signs of carpal bone instability in patients with an acutely injured wrist. There were 80 patients (52 women and 28 men) with a fall on the outstretched hand. Fifty patients had a fracture of the distal radius, and eight had a scaphoid fracture. The patients with a bone fracture showed a larger scapholunate angle than those without a fracture (P less than 0.001, t-test). However, only four of them showed true carpal bone instability: two patients with a scaphoid fracture and one with a radius fracture had dorsiflexion instability of the wrist and one patient with a radius fracture had dorsal subluxation of the wrist. In addition, one patient without any bone fracture had scapholunate dissociation, one form of carpal bone instability. Although carpal bone instability is not frequent in an acutely injured wrist, its signs should be remembered in the radiographic analysis of the traumatic wrist to prevent subsequent articular disorders.