Overview Of Navicular Fracture Of The Wrist
A scaphoid (navicular) fracture is a break from one of the small bones of the wrist. This type of fracture occurs after a fall onto an outstretched hand. Symptoms of a scaphoid fracture typically include pain and tenderness in the area just below the base of the thumb. These symptoms could worsen when you try to pinch or grasp something.
Treatment for a scaphoid fracture can range from minimal casting to surgery, depending on both the fracture’s severity and location on the fracture. Because some areas of the scaphoid have a poor blood supply—and a fracture can further disrupt the flow of blood to the bone—complications with the healing process are common.
Causes Of Navicular Fracture Of The Wrist
A scaphoid fracture is generally described by its location within the bone. Most commonly, the scaphoid breaks in its mid-portion, called the “waist.” Fractures can also occur at both the proximal and distal ends of the bone.
Scaphoid fractures are classified according to the severity of displacement–or how far the pieces of bone have moved out of their normal position:
- Non-displaced fracture. In this fracture, the bone fragments line up correctly.
- Displaced fracture. In this fracture, the bone fragments have moved out of their normal position. For example, there may be gaps between the pieces of bone or the fragments may overlap each other.
Symptoms Of Navicular Fracture Of The Wrist
A scaphoid fracture usually occurs when you fall onto an outstretched hand, with your weight landing on your palm. The end of the larger forearm bone (the radius) may also break in this type of fall, depending on the position of the hand on landing.
The injury is most common during sports activities or motor vehicle collisions.
Fractures of the scaphoid occur in people of all ages, including children.There are no specific risk factors or diseases that make you more likely to experience a scaphoid fracture. Some studies have shown that using wrist guards during high-energy activities like inline skating and snowboarding can help decrease your chance of breaking a bone around the wrist.
Exams & Tests
During the exam, your doctor will discuss your general health and will ask you to describe your symptoms. Your physician will also ask about how your injury occurred.
Your doctor will examine your wrist. With most fractures, there will be tenderness directly over the scaphoid in the anatomic snuffbox.
Your doctor will also look for:
- Loss of motion
X-rays. X-rays provide images of dense structures. Your doctor will order an x-ray to help determine if you have a scaphoid fracture and if the broken pieces of bone are displaced. An x-ray will also help your doctor determine if you have any other fractures.
In some cases, a scaphoid fracture will show up on an x-ray immediately. If your doctor suspects that you have a fracture but it is not visible on x-ray, he or she may recommend that you wear a wrist splint or cast for 2 to 3 weeks and then return for a second x-ray. Often, scaphoid fractures become visible on x-rays only after a period of time. During this waiting period, you should wear your splint or cast at all times and avoid activities that might cause further injury.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Your doctor may order an MRI to further examine the bones and soft tissues in your wrist. An MRI can sometimes present images of the fracture of the scaphoid before it can be seen on x-ray.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan can be helpful in revealing a fracture of the scaphoid and can also show whether the bones are displaced. Your doctor will then use information from the CT scan to help determine your treatment plan.
Treatment Of Navicular Fracture Of The Wrist
The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on a number of factors, including:
- The location of the fracture
- Whether the bone fragments are displaced
- How long ago your injury occurred
Fracture near the thumb. Scaphoid fractures that are closer to the thumb (distal pole) usually heal in a matter of weeks with both proper protection and restricted activity. This part of the scaphoid bone has a good blood supply, which is necessary for healing.
For this type of fracture, your doctor may place your forearm and hand in a cast or a splint. The cast or splint will generally be below the elbow and include your thumb.
Healing time varies from patient to patient. Your doctor will monitor your healing with periodic x-rays or other imaging studies.
Fracture near the forearm. If the scaphoid is broken in the middle of the bone (waist) or closer to the forearm (proximal pole), healing can be more difficult. These areas of the scaphoid do not have a very good blood supply.
If your doctor treats this type of fracture with a cast, the cast may include the thumb and extend above the elbow to help stabilize the fracture
Bone stimulator. In some cases, your doctor may recommend the use of a bone stimulator to assist in fracture healing. This small device delivers low-intensity ultrasonic or pulsed electromagnetic waves that stimulate healing.
If your scaphoid is broken at the waist or proximal pole or pieces of bone are displaced, your doctor may recommend surgery. The goal of surgery is to realign and stabilize the fracture, giving it a greater chance at healing properly.
Reduction. During this procedure, your doctor will administer an anesthetic or anesthesia and attempt to manipulate the bone back into its proper position. In some cases, this is done using a limited incision and special guided instruments. In other cases, it is performed through an open incision with direct manipulation of the fracture. For some fractures, your doctor may use a tiny camera called an “arthroscope” to aid in the reduction.
Internal fixation. During this procedure, metal implants—including screws and/or wires—are used to hold the scaphoid in place until the bone is fully healed.
The location and size of the surgical incision depend on what part of the scaphoid is broken. Sometimes, the screw or wire can be placed in bone fragments with a small incision. In other cases, a larger incision is needed to ensure that the fragments of the scaphoid line up properly. The incision may be made on either the front or the back of your wrist.
Bone graft. In some cases, a bone graft may be used with or without internal fixation. A bone graft is a new bone that is placed around the broken bone. It can stimulate bone production and healing. The graft may be taken from your forearm bone in the same arm or from your hip.