A scaphoid wrist fracture is a break in the scaphoid bone, one of eight small carpal bones that connect the hand to the forearm. Also known as a navicular fracture, the wrist injury results in pain, tenderness and swelling below the base of the thumb. The pain may get worse with pinching and grasping as well as when the thumb and wrist are moved.
Scaphoid fractures can occur during a motor vehicle collision or sporting activity. But they most frequently occur as a result of falling onto your outstretched hand, so they’re considered FOOSH injuries. People of all ages — including children — can suffer this type of wrist fracture.
Treatment can depend upon the location of the bone break, whether bone fragments are displaced and the amount of time that’s passed since you suffered the injury.
Types of Scaphoid Wrist Fractures
Scaphoid fractures can occur in the mid-portion of the bone, the waist or at either end of the bone. The injuries are classified according to how far the bone segments have moved from their normal positions.
A non-displaced scaphoid fracture is one in which the bone segments line up exactly as they should.
A displaced scaphoid fracture is a more severe injury, as it involves bone fragments that are not in their proper positions. The pieces of bone may overlap, or there might be gaps between the segments.
Conservative Treatments for Scaphoid Wrist Fracture
For a non-displaced scaphoid fracture that’s near the distal pole of the bone, or the end that’s closest to the wrist, a forearm splint or cast reaching from the elbow and including the thumb may be worn for several weeks.
Non-displaced wrist fractures with breaks in the waist or near the proximal pole, or elbow end of the bone, can also be treated through casting. But since these scaphoid bone areas don’t have a good blood supply, the cast is usually extended above the elbow.
For some patients, a bone stimulator, or a device that delivers ultrasonic or pulsed electromagnetic waves, may assist in wrist fracture healing.
Surgery for Scaphoid Wrist Fracture
Surgical treatment is recommended for patients with displaced scaphoid fractures. Many patients with breaks at the proximal pole or waist are also advised to get surgery.
Surgery for a wrist fracture involves manipulating the bones back into position. This may be done through an open or arthroscopic procedure. In some cases, internal fixation with metal implant screws or wires is necessary to hold the bone fragments in place for proper healing. Some patients also need bone grafts to stimulate bone growth and injury recovery.
Parts of the scaphoid bone have a poor blood supply, and a fracture makes the problem worse. As a result, complications during the healing process from scaphoid wrist fractures are common. For that reason, working with an experienced hand and wrist specialist — such as Dr. J. Douglas Burrows at northern Utah’s Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence — is crucial.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Burrows has provided expert hand and wrist fracture treatment for patients of all ages in the greater Salt Lake City area. To schedule a scaphoid wrist fracture consultation, contact our West Valley City, Utah, office today.