The carpal bones are the eight small bones that make up the wrist. One of these bones is the scaphoid, a peanut-shaped bone located on the thumb side of the wrist closest to the radius (the larger bone of the forearm). The scaphoid bone is often fractured during falls and other types of trauma given its location. Following a scaphoid bone fracture, patients in the greater Atlanta, GA area can seek treatment from Dr. Steven Bailey at The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery.
What Is a Scaphoid Fracture?
A scaphoid fracture is one of the more common types of wrist fractures. In less severe scaphoid fractures, people mistake their injury for a sprained wrist. The scaphoid bone itself tends to break at its thinner midpoint, which is referred to as its waist.
Symptoms of Scaphoid Fractures
Some of the most common symptoms of scaphoid fractures include:
- Pain around the wrist and thumb
- Swelling around the wrist and thumb
- Difficulty pinching or gripping objects
- Possible deformation of the hand
Causes of Scaphoid Fractures
Falls are one of the most common causes of scaphoid fractures. Out of instinct, people reach out to break their fall with their hands. Fractures may occur as the hands and arms absorb the shock of the fall.
Scaphoid fractures can also be caused by other kinds of physical trauma, such as sports injuries, vehicle collisions, work injuries, and physical altercations. Wearing wrist guards can help reduce the risk of scaphoid fractures.
Types of Scaphoid Fractures
Scaphoid fractures can be classified based on the nature of the bone break.
- Non-Displaced Fracture: A non-displaced fracture means that the broken portion of the bone is still in its proper position relative to the rest of the scaphoid.
- Displaced Fracture: A displaced fracture means that broken portions of the scaphoid are separated.
Scaphoid Fracture Diagnosis
When diagnosing scaphoid fractures, we will discuss the nature of the injury and the symptoms that the patient has experienced. X-rays will also be taken to determine whether or not the scaphoid has been broken. Since scaphoid fractures may not be initially visible in X-rays, some patients may be asked to wear a wrist splint for two to three weeks before returning for additional X-rays.
To assist with diagnosis, a doctor may use other imaging technology such as an MRI scan or a CT scan. These can help assess the condition of other tissues in the wrist and hand.
Treatment of Scaphoid Fractures
If a patient suffers a non-displaced scaphoid fracture, surgery may not be necessary. In these cases, treatment typically involves a cast being placed around the thumb, hand, wrist, and forearm. This stabilizes these structures and allows the bone to heal properly.
For displaced scaphoid fractures or severe fractures at the waist of the bone, surgery may be necessary. A surgeon may use screws, pins, wires, or bone grafts to join the scaphoid fragments together. It may also be necessary to reposition the fractured scaphoid bone to restore proper function of the wrist.
Recovery after Scaphoid Fracture Surgery
The scaphoid bone heals very slowly. It may be necessary to wear a cast for up to six months after surgery. Patients will need to avoid a number of physical activities to prevent harming the scaphoid as it heals. Physical therapy will help maintain hand strength and restore some strength and motion to the wrist and thumb.
Contact The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery to learn more about scaphoid fractures and the treatment options available.