A scaphoid fracture is most commonly the result of a fall on an outstretched hand. The scaphoid is a small bone in the hand. It is located on the thumb side of the wrist and is the most commonly broken bone in the wrist. Because the symptoms can be minimal, scaphoid fractures are frequently mistaken as sprained wrists. A scaphoid fracture requires casting or surgery.
The scaphoid is a small bone located on the thumb side of the wrist. The scaphoid bone is unique in that it spans the two rows of bones that make up your wrist. Because of its outside position, it is the most commonly broken bone in the wrist. Additionally, the blood supply to the scaphoid is somewhat unusual, and this can lead to problems in fracture healing.
Scaphoid Fracture Causes
Falling with the hand outstretched is the most common culprit of scaphoid fractures. Vehicle crashes and sports injuries can also cause scaphoid fractures. The end result of a scaphoid fracture is dependent on the location of the break in the bone and how much the bone fragments have displaced or shifted. Fractures occurring near the end of the bone toward the hand have the greatest blood supply and heal the best. Fractures located in the middle of the scaphoid or closer to the forearm sometimes have difficulty healing because the blood supply to these areas is poor.
Scaphoid Fracture Symptoms
A scaphoid fracture causes tenderness directly over the bone, known as “the anatomic snuffbox.” The pain may increase when the thumb is moved. The initial pain may decrease over days or weeks. Scaphoid fractures do not usually cause bruising or swelling. This is the main reason they are mistaken for a sprain.
Scaphoid Fracture Diagnosis
A doctor can diagnose a scaphoid fracture by examining your wrist and taking X-rays. Although rare, sometimes scaphoid fractures don’t show up on the initial X-rays. CT scans are frequently ordered, as the degree of fracture displacement is often difficult to determine from plain X-rays.
Scaphoid Fracture Treatment
Scaphoid Fracture treatment depends on the location, fracture type, and fracture location in the bone. As previously mentioned, fractures located near the thumb heal well with casting. While fractures in areas with a poor blood supply and displaced fractures generally require surgery.
Scaphoid Fracture Surgery
Surgery for scaphoid fractures can be done through a tiny incision when the bone fragments do not need to be reduced or manipulated. Otherwise, a small incision at the base of the thumb is needed. Headless screws are used to hold the scaphoid bone in position while it heals and cast or splint is worn for some time following surgery.
Scaphoid Fracture Recovery
Most of the time, it can take a scaphoid fracture a few months to heal. You will participate in hand therapy rehabilitation once the cast is removed. You should also avoid gripping and heavy lifting, as well as contact sports until your doctor clears you to do so.
Some scaphoid fractures will have a difficult time healing. For example, there can be delayed healing, or sometimes the bone will not heal, leading to a nonunion. In these cases, a follow up surgery may be necessary to insert bone grafts which will promote healing because they either bring a blood supply to the area, or growth factors that enhance healing.
Scaphoid Fracture Prevention
You can prevent a scaphoid fracture with standard fall prevention techniques. If you participate in a sport, you should wear protective equipment such as wrist guards.
Also, treating underlying medical conditions can help prevent falls. A physical examination can identify medical conditions that cause balance disorders or dizziness.