Wrist Scaphoid Fractures | | Loyola Medicine

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update

Loyola Medicine is resuming select health care services. Learn more about resumption of services.

Scaphoid Fractures of the Wrist

Overview and Facts about Scaphoid Fractures of the Wrist

The scaphoid bone is located on the thumb side of your wrist. It connects two rows of bones on the wrist and provides stability for the wrist joint. Because of its size and location, it's the most commonly broken bone in the wrist.

Scaphoid fractures often occur after a fall. These fractures seldom cause heavy swelling and are frequently misdiagnosed as a sprain or strain. However, scaphoid fractures need casts or splints to heal correctly.

If you don't receive proper care for your fracture, your bones may not heal well. A poorly healed injury can trigger other orthopaedic conditions in the future.

Signs and Symptoms of Scaphoid Fractures of the Wrist

Scaphoid fractures are often accompanied by pain along the thumb side of the wrist. Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain when moving the thumb
  • Pain when picking up or grasping items

A scaphoid fracture doesn't always cause noticeable symptoms. Many people with scaphoid fractures experience very little bruising or swelling around their wrist. But unlike sprains or strains, scaphoid fractures usually cause pain that doesn't get better after a few days.

Causes and Risk Factors of Scaphoid Fractures of the Wrist

Scaphoid fractures can occur when a person falls onto their outstretched hand. Sports like rollerblading, skating, or snowboarding may increase your chances of fracturing your scaphoid. Auto accidents can also cause this type of injury.

While anyone can fracture their scaphoid, fractures are especially common among active teenagers and adults. Older adults who are at an increased risk for falls may also fracture their wrists. Injuries that lead to fractures in the scaphoid may also cause other fractures in the arm or fingers.

Wearing wrist guards or other protective equipment while playing sports can help prevent this kind of injury. Athletes can also seek guidance from an athletic coach to learn how to fall safely.

Tests and Diagnosis of Scaphoid Fractures of the Wrist

Imaging tests like X-rays can help diagnose scaphoid fractures. But a scaphoid fracture may not show up on an X-ray immediately after the injury. If your doctor suspects a scaphoid fracture, he or she may place a splint or cast on your arm. Another X-ray may be performed in two to three weeks to confirm the diagnosis.

Other imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan also help your doctor examine the tissues in your arm and wrist. These tests provide more detailed results than an X-ray. If your accident has caused extensive damage, you might need several different imaging tests.

Treatment and Care for Scaphoid Fractures of the Wrist

Your treatment plan will depend on whether your scaphoid bone has been displaced. A non-displaced bone can usually heal on its own with rest. A displaced bone, or a bone that has shifted, may require surgery.

Scaphoid fractures need a splint or cast to heal correctly. Your doctor may recommend that you wear the cast for six to 12 weeks. In some cases, it may be necessary for you to wear your cast for up to six months.

After your wrist has healed, your doctor may recommend special exercises to help promote healing and ease stiffness. Physical therapy can also help with healing after your cast is removed.