Fractured Scaphoid: Treatments, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Causes

Fractured Scaphoid Overview

Discover the signs and symptoms of a fractured scaphoid and find out how to aid recovery with a range of private medical treatments provided by health experts throughout the country which you may be entitled to receive free of charge.

Fractured scaphoid

Fractured scaphoid

The wrist consists of eight small carpal bones and two larger bones; these are the bones of the forearm, called the radius and the ulna. The carpal bones lie in two rows of four, around the base of the hand, and one of these bones is the scaphoid which is located on the same side as your thumb, just above the radius bone. A scaphoid fracture is a break that negatively impacts one of the small bones found in your wrist. It can also be called a navicular fracture of the wrist. The fracture occurs most frequently from falling directly on to your outstretched hand.

Symptoms associated with a scaphoid fracture typically include tenderness and/or pain around the base of the thumb which may increase in severity when you attempt to pinch or grasp something. This guide takes you through the various symptoms of a scaphoid fracture, your treatment options,

To find out more about a fractured scaphoid and whether you would qualify for free private medical care and physiotherapy aftercare, please click on the Select a Section below.

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What is the Definition of a Fractured Scaphoid?

The scaphoid bone connects all bones found in your wrist and is responsible for flexibility. The bone is long and curved, hence its name “scaphoid” which is a Greek for “boat”. This area is particularly susceptible to injury due to its location. A fractured scaphoid is commonly caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand which may cause scaphoid pain without actually causing a fracture to your wrist. Complications in the healing process can ensue due to a poor blood supply. Fractures to the scaphoid usually occur in the middle part of the bone, known as the “waist”. However, you can also fracture your wrist at the proximal and distal ends of the bone.

You can identify your scaphoid bone by holding hold your thumb upwards in the “OK” position. The bone located is the dip of your thumb and formed by tendons which is commonly referred to as the “anatomic snuffbox”. Following a fractured wrist, it is often the most painful or tender area. A fracture to the scaphoid is classed according to the severity of the injury and can often be measured on the extent of the damage and how much of the bone has been displaced.

Non-displaced scaphoid fracture

  • In general, a non-displaced scaphoid fracture does not require surgical intervention because bone fragments remain aligned

Displaced scaphoid fracture

  • A fracture of this nature involves bone fragments that have moved out of alignment, leaving gaps where bits of damaged bone overlap. Surgery may be required to put things right

A number of treatment options are available for a fractured scaphoid and these will be determined by the nature of the fracture and its location in your wrist.

What are the Most Common Causes of a Fractured Scaphoid?

People can suffer a fractured scaphoid bone at any time. This type of wrist injury can happen to children or elderly people in either the left or right hand. A scaphoid fracture has no specific risk factors that make someone more susceptible to sustaining this type of wrist injury although anyone suffering from weaker bones would be more predisposed to sustaining the injury.

A scaphoid fracture often occurs when someone falls with their hand outstretched, placing all their weight on the palm of the hand to break a fall. In more severe fractures, the end of the radius which is the larger forearm bone that forms part of the wrist, may also be negatively impacted. Fractured scaphoid injury sometimes occurs as a result of sporting activities or road traffic accident. Studies have established that people who take part in high risk sporting activities such as inline skating or snowboarding and who wear wrist guards can lessen the chances of breaking a bone in their wrist.

What are the Symptoms of a Fractured Scaphoid?

With a fractured scaphoid, there is often no visible deformity and the wrist often maintains full mobility. Additionally, the pain caused by this type of injury may not be severe and for this reason, a wrist fracture is sometimes confused with a sprain. Pain may also occur with or without bruising and often there is no swelling which typically appears on the same side as the thumb. Pain from a broken wrist usually occurs in the days following a fall.

Fractured scaphoid symptoms can include pain and swelling around the wrist on the side of your thumb, as well as in the tendons or the “anatomic snuffbox”. There may be an increase in pain when you try to grasp or pinch something, or when you move your wrist and thumb. It is worth noting that symptoms of a fractured scaphoid can be distinguished from those of a sprain if the pain persists for longer than one day of the injury occurring.

One of the symptoms of a fractured scaphoid is tenderness around the scaphoid bone itself, which is located on the same side as the thumb. If this is the case, you may be asked to wear a splint on your injured wrist. If the pain does not go away, it is essential to seek advice from a doctor. Delaying treatment of a fractured scaphoid could lead to complications in the healing process. As such, if you suspect that your wrist is broken, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How is a Fractured Scaphoid Diagnosed?

The most common method of diagnosing a scaphoid fracture is through an x-ray. Sometimes, however, this type of wrist injury can be missed if there are no obvious signs of a break. If a broken wrist fails to show up on an x-ray, it is called an “occult” fracture. In the case of persistent pain, your doctor may request a follow-up appointment and an x-ray in a couple of weeks in order to make a conclusive diagnosis. A scaphoid fracture may also show up on an MRI, CT or bone scan.

As such, the sort of imaging tests that would be carried out to confirm an initial fractured scaphoid diagnosis are detailed below:

  • A series of x-rays taken from different angles
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

How is a Fractured Scaphoid Treated?

Treatment of a fractured scaphoid would depend on the type of break, its severity and complexity. Your doctor will determine the best treatment by considering a number of factors:

  • Does the fracture involve bone displacement?
  • Where the scaphoid fracture is located
  • When the injury occurred

Treatment for Non-displaced scaphoid fractures

  • For non-displaced fractures, where the fractured bone maintains its alignment, non-operative treatment may be all that is required. Treating a fractured scaphoid using a cast or splint has proved highly successful and recovery usually takes up to six weeks. However, in some cases, scaphoid fracture healing time may take longer

Treatment for Displaced scaphoid fractures

  • Treatment of scaphoid fractures that involve displaced bones may involve surgery. If tests show a displaced scaphoid fracture has occurred, screws or pins are typically used to ensure damaged bones remain in the correct place

Treatment for distal pole fractures

  • Fractures located close to the thumb are called distal pole scaphoid fractures. With adequate protection of the site and limited movement, these wrist fractures often heal within a few weeks. A wrist injury of this nature has a good blood supply which supports healing and therefore the recovery time may be faster. You would be monitored throughout your recovery using x-rays or other imaging techniques as determined by a doctor
  • Distal pole scaphoid fractures are treated using a cast or splint. The forearm and hand are placed in a splint below the elbow which also supports the thumb. A fracture located in the middle of the bone which is called the waist or close to the proximal pole – the forearm, has less blood supply and as such may take longer to heal

Treatment for proximal pole scaphoid fractures

  • Treating a proximal pole scaphoid fracture may involve a splint or cast that extends above the elbow to ensure that the structure of the arm and hand remains stable. In some cases, a bone stimulator is used to support recovery. The device stimulates healing by emitting low-intensity ultrasonic or pulsed electromagnetic waves

Fractured scaphoid surgery

For fracture scaphoids affecting the proximal pole or where the damage occurs at the waist, as well as in cases where the bone is displaced, surgery may be the best treatment option. Successful surgery will stabilise the fracture and realign damaged bones, allowing the injury to heal. There are a number of surgeries commonly used in this type of wrist injury which are detailed below:

Reduction

  • This technique involves the bone being manipulated back into place. For the procedure, you would be administered an anaesthetic. Surgery usually requires minimal incision, and specialist guided instruments are used to realign the bone. Sometimes an open incision is required and the surgeon will directly manipulate the fracture. A small camera called an “arthroscope” may be used during the procedure

Internal fixations

  • Another surgical option is internal fixation which involves metal implants such as screws, pins and wires being inserted into your damaged wrist to hold the damaged scaphoid bone in place while your injury heals. Whether a large or small incision is required will depend on the location of the scaphoid break. In some cases, a small incision is all that is needed to place implants inside the bone fragments. A larger incision may be used to ensure any damaged bones are held in place and correctly aligned

Bone graft

  • For more extreme fractures of the scaphoid, a bone graft may be required and again, internal fixations would be used to hold displaced and/or damaged bones in the correct position. Bone grafts involve placing new bone around the fractured bone tissue. The new bone may be taken from the same arm as the injury, or it may be taken from your hip. A bone graft can promote healing by stimulating natural bone restoration

Could I Qualify For Any Free Medical Care for a Fractured Scaphoid?

To increase your chance of a successful recovery from a fractured scaphoid, it is essential to select the right treatment. NHS treatment of a scaphoid fracture is very good, but often it is not as effective as the treatment you could receive in a private medical facility. Many people living in the UK are unaware they could qualify for free medical care for injuries such as a fractured scaphoid.

A wide range of free private medical treatments are available to patients across the UK, which are all designed to support a faster recovery in a safe and clean environment. To discover more, please contact our team of health experts today who can tell you straight away whether you are eligible for free private healthcare in your area and what sort of treatment and therapy is available.

What Type of Free Treatment Is Available for a Fractured Scaphoid?

Fractured scaphoid treatment

Fractured scaphoid treatment

If you suffered a fractured scaphoid you could qualify for free private medical care in your area as well as free medical supplies and physiotherapy aftercare. These medical aids could help speed up your recovery and could include the following:

  • Fractured scaphoid splints
  • Slings
  • Ice packs
  • Medical compresses

Find out whether you could qualify for free medical care, medical aids and physiotherapy aftercare in your area by contacting our team of health experts today.

Are There Any Complications Associated with a Fractured Scaphoid?

It is essential to obtain a diagnosis for a scaphoid fracture as soon as possible, in order to avoid potential complications in your recovery. The most common complications that can occur following a fractured scaphoid can include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Long-term limited mobility
  • Failure to heal – non-union of the damaged scaphoid bone
  • Avascular Necrosis – blood supply issues potentially causing increasing pain over time

I Think My Doctor Missed Something When Diagnosing My Fractured Scaphoid?

If you suspect you have seriously injured your wrist but a diagnosis of a scaphoid fractured has been missed by your doctor, it can be helpful to carry out your own research to establish the severity of your injury. You can find more information about fractured scaphoid symptoms and treatment options by following the links at the bottom of this page

How Long Does a Fractured Scaphoid Take to Heal?

Healing time for a fractured scaphoid can vary and depends on the severity of the break. Using a cast to stabilise the break can help to speed up recovery. For minor fractures, it can take up to six weeks for the injury to fully heal. More severe fractures can take much longer but it is worth noting that the treatment you choose, such as physiotherapy, can act to reduce scaphoid fracture recovery time.

You may need to wear a cast or splint for six months and possibly longer to keep the fractured scaphoid stable, regardless of whether you follow a surgical or non-surgical course of treatment. Generally, scaphoid fractures tend to heal slowly as compared to other types of fracture. While recovery is taking place, you should avoid certain activities, unless your doctor has given their approval. You should always check with your doctor before taking part activities such as:

  • Smoking – this can increase your chances of developing an infection and prevent bones from healing
  • Using the injured arm to throw a ball
  • Contact sports
  • Participating in activities which carry a high risk of falling on to your hand, such as trampolining or skating
  • Heavy lifting – carrying, pushing, lifting or pulling in excess of one pound of weight
  • Using heavy or vibratory equipment
  • Climbing ladders or trees

Occasionally the wrist may develop ongoing stiffness following a scaphoid fracture. This can occur when patients wear a splint for long periods of time. To help you regain as much mobility in your hand as possible, it is important to continue using full finger motion during your recovery. You may be prescribed specific fractured scaphoid exercises by your doctor or referred to a hand specialist who will support you in regaining motion and strength in the fractured wrist.

Physiotherapy has proved to be extremely beneficial in these cases, helping patients to develop mobility and function following wrist fractures. Therapies can include taking tests of the fractured scaphoid to determine the range of movement, a course of exercises, and hand therapy to help speed up the recovery process and promote healing.

Free physiotherapy treatment for a fractured scaphoid may be available. Find out if you are one of millions throughout the UK who are eligible for free private medical care in your area. Call our friendly team of health experts today to find out about scaphoid fracture treatments and see if you qualify for free physiotherapy aftercare.

Is It Possible to Speed Up a Fractured Scaphoid Injury Safely?

Healing from a fractured scaphoid can be helped greatly by physiotherapy. Physiotherapy aftercare could include tailored exercises which can help improve mobility, flexibility and function in your hand, as well as speed up recovery.

For more information about physiotherapy in the treatment of a fracture to the scaphoid and to find out whether you are eligible to receive free physiotherapy session from a private UK medical provider, please call our friendly team of health experts today.

Are There Any Long Term Health Issues Associated with a Fractured Scaphoid?

In some cases, a severe scaphoid fracture can result in long-term damage that to the wrist which are detailed below:

Nonunion fractures

  • A non-union fracture occurs when the bone fails to heal. Scaphoid fractures are more commonly associated with a nonunion fracture due to the fact that blood supply in this location is so poor. For a broken wrist to heal successfully, a good blood supply is important since healing is aided by the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the bone via the circulating blood
  • When a fractured wrist fails to heal, surgery may be prescribed. Your doctor may use a special kind of graft for nonunion fractures, called a vascularised graft. This is designed to provide the fracture site with its own blood supply. If the fracture has collapsed, however, your doctor may suggest using a structural graft, which may involve using a bone from your hip

Avascular Necrosis

  • If blood supply to the bone is disrupted more commonly found in fractures with displaced bone fragments, the cells in that area could die due to a lack of nutrients within the bone fragments. When this occurs, full healing of the fracture will not occur. When this happens, it is called “avascular necrosis”. The best treatment option is a vascularized bone graft. This approach is only viable if the bone has not collapsed significantly and in the absence of arthritis in the wrist

Arthritis

Complications such as nonunion fractures and avascular necrosis can result in arthritis that affects the wrist in the longer term. This can be an issue if the articular cartilage in the joint, which covers the ends of the bone, becomes worn. This can result in pain if the joint deteriorates to the point that bone is rubbing against bone. Arthritis in your wrist can produce symptoms such as:

  • Stiffness
  • Aching
  • Decreased wrist motion
  • Pain when lifting, gripping or bearing weight

If arthritis is present at the fracture site, treatment may include wearing a split and taking anti-inflammatory medication or analgesics. If pain is severe, a steroid injection may be prescribed. Treatment is focused on eliminating the symptoms. If a more conservative to treating arthritis of the wrist is unsuccessful, surgery may be required. Your doctor will discuss the various procedures that can treat the condition.

Get in Touch Today and Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

If you have sustained a fractured scaphoid and have exhausted options available on the NHS, you may not be aware that free private medical treatment is available for eligible candidates. Local private medical care is available free of charge to patients who qualify, and therapies can range from free medical aids like splints or casts to support the scaphoid fracture to full orthopaedic reports or physiotherapy aftercare.With additional treatment such as rehabilitation and recovery services, scaphoid fractures may heal more quickly safely.

Find out if you could be eligible for free private medical care in your local area. Contact our team of health experts and find out in moments whether you qualify for treatment free of charge at a private medical facility local to you. Our phone lines are open 7 days a week from 9am to 11pm and a health expert is waiting to take your call on 020 3870 4868.

Links to Helpful Websites

If you suffered a fractured scaphoid and would like more information on this type of wrist injury, the following link provides essential reading:

Patient information on fractured scaphoid injuries

To find out more about NHS treatments for injuries to your wrist, please click on the link below:

NHS advice and treatment for a fractured scaphoid

To find out more on how physiotherapy aftercare can help speed up your recovery safely, please follow the link below:

How physiotherapy can help speed up recovery