Fractures of the Hand (Metacarpal Fractures)
Fractures of the hand (metacarpal fractures) are a common injury that many people experience in their lifetime. Hand fractures can occur as a result of a falling, twisting, or crushing movement — with or without external force. Thankfully, prompt medical attention can allow most hand fractures to heal without surgical treatment.
What Causes a Hand Fracture?
Hand fractures generally occur as a result of undue force or trauma to the hand or fingers. If the force is too great — or the structure is not strong enough — the bone can break at either end or in the middle.
There are two major types of bones that can break in the hand:
- Phalanges — The phalanges are the little bones that make up the structure of the fingers and thumbs. Each thumb has two phalanges, and each finger has three phalanges.
- Metacarpals — The metacarpals are the five larger bones that run through the palm and connect the phalanges to the wrist bones.
What are the Symptoms of a Hand Fracture?
The symptoms of a hand fracture often vary based on severity of injury, patient history, nerve damage, and numerous other factors. Though in common practice, the common symptoms of a hand fracture can include:
- Discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the hand or fingers;
- Swelling or inflammation in the hand or fingers;
- Bruising or discoloration in the hand or fingers;
- Reduced mobility or flexibility in the hand or fingers; and
- Fingers stuck in a bent position or crossing over other fingers.
How is a Hand Fracture Diagnosed?
The diagnostic process for a hand fracture will generally begin with a physical examination. During this process, a doctor will assess and manipulate the injured hand to determine the extent of injury.
In addition to the physical examination, X-rays are commonly recommended for suspected hand fractures. These imaging tests can provide a detailed look into high-density structures like bone, including location of fracture and any fragmentation.
How is a Hand Fracture Treated?
For minor to intermediate hand fractures, non-surgical treatment can serve as an effective remedy. If the fractured bone is already in proper position, then a doctor can apply a cast or splint without making an incision. Most patients wear the cast or splint for three to six weeks, depending on how quickly they heal.
For severe hand fractures — especially displaced fractures, where bone or fragments of bone are improperly positioned — surgery may be the only viable option. Hand fractures might need invasive procedures to realign or reset the affected bone. In certain cases, a doctor might install plates or screws to stabilize the bone and allow for proper healing.
Do You Need Professional Treatment for a Hand Fracture?
If you are suffering from any of the signs or symptoms of a hand fracture, it can be thoroughly helpful to reach out to a proficient orthopaedic doctor. At the Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside, all of our doctors have board certification and demonstrated proficiency handling various orthopaedic injuries, including hand fractures. If you need professional treatment for a hand fracture or similar orthopaedic injury, contact us today to schedule an initial examination.