The wrist has many bones, and a break in one of those bones is called a scaphoid fracture. The scaphoid bone is one of the largest bones that sits below the thumb. A scaphoid fracture is painful and can happen easily because of its location. When a scaphoid fracture happens, diagnosis and treatment must be done immediately. If the condition is not treated right away, you run the risk of the wrist joint not healing properly. Falling is the main cause of a scaphoid fracture, which makes prevention hard. If you suspect you have a wrist fracture, seek medical attention right away.
Of all the eight bones in the wrist, the scaphoid bone is the largest. The scaphoid bone rests between the radius and the carpal bones. The scaphoid bone is underneath the thumb. When you fall, most of the pressure is put on the side of the wrist that is closer to the thumb. This makes the scaphoid bone the easiest bone to break. You would think since the bone is the largest, it would be stronger and not break as easily. This sounds reasonable, but it is not true. The pressure that can be put on the wrist bone when you fall can break any of the bones of the wrist.
Most breaks of the scaphoid bone do not result in the bone breaking completely in half. Most of the breaks are small and usually heal without surgery. There are times when the bone comes out of place, and that leads to a visible deformity. The scaphoid bone can be pushed out of place when you fall a certain kind of way. Since the scaphoid bone is large, there are many places in which a break may occur. A scaphoid break can be mild or severe. More severe breaks cause more pain and require more treatment.
Symptoms of a scaphoid fracture include pain and swelling. There is a lot of tenderness that usually happens in that area. You may even see some discoloration. The use of the wrist becomes very difficult. It becomes nearly impossible to open things hold on to things. Symptoms may not happen initially. It could take a few days before the pain settles in and bruising begins. For most scaphoid fractures, the wrist does not look abnormal or seem limp. Many scaphoid fractures are mistaken for wrist strains or sprains. Bruising is usually a sign that helps distinguish sprains and strains from breaks.
A physician should examine your wrist when pain is ongoing and increasing. Doctors must do imaging tests to verify a diagnosis. An X-ray shows the skeletal system and shows breaks in the bones. Depending on the location of the fracture, it may not be seen at all. When the fracture is on the top of the bone, under the thumb, it cannot be seen on X-ray. The doctor calls this an occult fracture. Hairline fractures are very thin fractures that can also occur when the scaphoid bone is broken.
Treatment of scaphoid fractures depends on the location of the fracture as well as the severity of the fracture. If you are trying to seek treatment for a fracture that has happened a while ago, the doctor may have to adjust treatment. Fractures that are near the thumb heal much better than those closer to the wrist area. Healing is dependent on blood supply. Greater blood supply is found near the thumb which makes healing much better. Doctors will either put the wrist in a cast or a splint. It depends on the type of fracture and location of the fracture. In more severe cases, you must wear a cast. The cast keeps the wrist stable and promotes healing. It also helps the wrist heal properly. Surgery is required when pieces of the bone are broken and when the break is closer to the radius.
Reduction Surgery and Internal Fixation
Two types of surgery can be done. The first type of surgery is called Reduction surgery. Reduction surgery is used to put the scaphoid bone back into place. It does not always require an incision. Some doctors can pop the bone back in place like you would a dislocated shoulder. Sometimes the doctor makes an incision and uses a tiny tool to fix the bone. The second type of surgery called Internal fixation. Internal fixation requires the use of screws or wires to hold the scaphoid bone in place. Normally after the bone heals, the screws or wires are removed.
Scaphoid fractures are painful, and it takes some time to recover. Scaphoid fractures take nearly six months to heal. If you are in a splint, you have to be very careful with your arm. Try not to lift anything heavy. Weight lifting is off limits. You should not do any activities that require wrist action. If your wrist heals abnormally, that could be a problem and may require surgery. If you have fallen and notice your wrist is not healing well, you should see a physician. It may be more than a sprain; it could be a scaphoid fracture. Treating the problem right away prevents further damage.
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