I thought it was just a sprain! A closer look at scaphoid fractures.

Matthew L. Drake, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon

Bumps and bruises can often feel like minor issues that don’t require medical attention, however sometimes that is not the case. A common issue I see in my practice is the scaphoid non-union. The scaphoid is a small peanut shaped bone in the wrist. Teenage boys and young men engaging in sports often break this bone after a hard fall at play. The initial symptoms are wrist pain and swelling, which does improve with time. However, if the scaphoid bone was broken and not treated, trouble is on the horizon.

Illustration and x-ray showing a break in the mid-portion, or “waist,” of the scaphoid. This is the most common location for a fracture. Photo courtesy of orthoinfo.aaos.org.

The scaphoid bone has a difficult time healing due to poor blood supply, it’s just the way we are built. If recognized right away, most scaphoid fractures will heal in a cast or with a minor procedure to place a screw inside the bone. Once the bone heals, the usual outcome is no long -term problems. If even a one -month delay occurs before treatment begins, the risk of the bone not healing or requiring a much more invasive surgery goes up significantly. If the scaphoid does not heal, long term problems of wrist arthritis are sure to develop.

These problems are usually preventable! If a wrist injury occurs, particularly in the young athletic male age group, medical evaluation is advised. If there is tenderness over the scaphoid bone, x-rays should be taken. Many times, the initial x-ray will not even show a fracture, therefore a cast should be applied and a follow up needs to occur in two weeks to determine best next steps.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my practice is to help patients treat problems in a simple, practical fashion leading to good outcomes. However, the essential part for me is to have the opportunity to perform an expert evaluation. If the wrist is sore after a fall, be concerned, and get it checked out!

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Matthew Drake, MD, please use our online tool or call or text our office at 812-424-9291.