Conditions & Treatments

Scaphoid Fractures

The scaphoid bone is a small bone of the wrist, located close to the lower arm on the thumb side. The scaphoid bone has a fairly low blood supply, and blood is supplied only from the top (dorsal) side of the bone. Since most fractures of the scaphoid occur in the lower (palmar) part of the bone, these fractures often do not heal well.

The most common cause of a scaphoid fracture is a fall onto an outstretched wrist, common in a variety of sports activities. Fractures of the scaphoid account for more than half of all wrist fractures. However, the injury often occurs with minimal swelling and derformity. As a consequence, many people do not realize they have broken a bone. Signs of a scaphoid fracture include pain and tenderness on the thumb side of the wrist, pain upon gripping and grasping objects, and tenderness to pressure in the region between the two tendons leading to the thumb on the back side of the hand. If you suspect a scaphoid fracture, you should see your doctor immediately.

It may be difficult to see a scaphoid fracture on X-ray. Your doctor may use other diagnostic tests such as CT scans, bone scans, or an MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Immobilization in a cast is the standard initial treatment for a scaphoid fracture. Healing, if it occurs, may take up to six months due to the low blood supply to the scaphoid. In fractures that do not heal, a surgery involving pins or a bone graft may be required. It is important not to ignore these fractures, because untreated they can lead to complications such as arthritis.