Hand fractures are very common and can result in disability if not treated adequately.
The hand is among the most commonly used parts of our body and unfortunately, one of the most frequently injured part. Injury to the hand can disable the patient temporarily and permanently, and should therefore be managed with extreme care.
The hand is made up of 27 small bones. These allow flexibility to the hand to enable its various functions. At the base of the palm are 8 small carpal bones, some of which contribute to the wrist joint. The metacarpal bones are long bones in the center of the palm. Each finger has three phalanges, except the thumb which has two phalanges. The bones are connected with each other through ligaments and tendons, which keep them in their correct place.
There are several types of hand fractures depending on the nature of the injury. Any bone of the hand can be fractured following an injury to the hand. The long and slender metacarpal bones are commonly fractured following a direct injury. Symptoms include severe pain and inability to move the joints formed by the affected bones. In some cases, an obvious deformity may be present.
Hand fractures are diagnosed using imaging studies like x-ray, CT scan and MRI. They are treated surgically or non-surgically depending on the type of injury.
Hand Fractures – Causes
A direct injury to the hand can result in a fracture. Conditions that weaken the bones predispose them to fractures
Bones of the hand can get fractured under several circumstances which include:
- Injury during sports
- Motor vehicle accident
- Fall on the outstretched hand
- Work-related injury due to improper use of tools or not following proper methods
Like for other fractures, weak hand bones are more likely to develop a fracture. Conditions that predispose to hand injury are:
Hand Fractures - Symptoms and Signs / Diagnosis
Severe pain and reduced range of motion of the fingers are the most common signs and symptoms of hand fractures.
Symptoms and Signs of Hand Fractures
Symptoms of hand fracture appear following an injury. Some of the signs and symptoms of hand fracture are:
- Severe pain, which worsens during movements of the affected bones and joints
- Swelling in the hand
- Deformities in case of displaced fractures
- Weakness or numbness in the hand if nerves are affected
Diagnosis of Hand Fractures
Diagnosis of hand fractures is made based on:
- History: The patient gives a history of injury to the hand
- Clinical Examination: The physician examines the hand to look out for signs of fracture as well as to determine if there is any damage to the blood vessels, nerves or tendons
- Imaging tests: These are used to diagnose bony and soft tissue injuries of the hand include:
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
Treatment for Hand Fractures
Hand fractures can be treated with non-surgical or surgical procedures.
Treatment of a broken hand includes the following:
- Non-surgical treatment: In the absence of additional injuries or displacement of fracture, the fractured bone is immobilized. For finger fractures,the finger is often strapped with the next finger. Pain killers are also prescribed to the patient to reduce associated pain and reduce inflammation.
- Surgical treatment: Surgical treatment is often necessary in the following cases of hand fractures:
- Open fractures, where the fractured surfaces are exposed
- Fractures that affect joints of the hand
- Fractures where the broken bones are displaced
- Fractures where soft tissues are damaged
- Presence of multiple fractures
- The hand is immobilized after the surgery to assist healing.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy is necessary following the period of immobilization to ensure that the joints do not become stiff and maximum function of the hand is achieved.