What is a scaphoid fracture?
A scaphoid fracture is the breaking of your scaphoid bone, one of the carpal bones in the hand, around the wrist area. The scaphoid bone is highlighted in red on the below image:
Usually, a scaphoid fracture occurs when you fall onto your outstretched hand. This is when your palm is flat and your wrist bent backwards as you land on the ground.
A broken scaphoid bone can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Pain around the wrist area
- Bruising/swelling around the wrist
The pain of a scaphoid fracture can often be milder than a typical wrist break, meaning patients assume it’s a sprain, and don’t discover the fracture until visiting a doctor several weeks later when the pain has not reduced. A scaphoid fracture is typically diagnosed with an x-ray, although it doesn’t always show, due to it being hidden by other carpal bones. Sometimes a CT scan or MRI scan may be needed to diagnose.
The treatment of a scaphoid fracture can be determined by whether the bone has displaced or not:
- If the bone has not been displaced, the scaphoid fracture will be treated by putting your arm in a cast from the wrist to your elbow. It will need to remain in this position for between eight and twelve weeks, to ensure proper healing of the scaphoid bone.
- If the bone has been displaced, surgery is required to heal the fracture. A small screw or pin will be inserted to hold the fragmented bone together, via a small incision.
A scaphoid fracture can sometimes lead to complications. The fragments can heal in an incorrect position that affects movement of the wrist and causes pain. This is known as malunion, and needs surgery to be corrected. Also, further down the line, a scaphoid fracture can lead to developing osteoarthritis.