The hand is made up of two kinds of bones– the fingers (the phalanges) and the long hand bones (the metacarpals). When one of these bones is put under pressure, a fracture may occur.
A fracture can occur after a trauma, fall, or an unnatural movement of the hand. Hands can also be twisted or crushed, which can cause very painful fractures. Direct contact sports may also cause breaks within the hand or fingers.
Some fractures are clean and stable, where the bone simply separates. In other cases, the bones may shift or break the skin. Sometimes, the bone can crack deep within, while other times the fracture may just be on the surface. Different types of fractures have different treatment plans, which is why it is necessary to contact a physician specializing in hand care immediately after the incident.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
A physician specializing in conditions of the hand, such as Dr. Leah Urbanosky of Hinsdale Orthopaedics, will initially do a physical examination of the hand in order to determine the nature of the injury. There are many signs of a broken bone within the hand, including:
Dr. Urbanosky will test the range of motion of the hand and fingers and this will help determine the severity of the injury. A simple “feel” test will rule out any potential nerve damage as the cause of pain. After the physical exam, an X-ray will be taken of the hand to determine the location and seriousness of the fracture.
The majority of hand fracture patients heal completely without surgery. The bones just need to be realigned, and this can be done with a splint, brace, or a cast, depending on the seriousness of the injury. Casts are generally worn from three to six weeks, but after that, hands and fingers can return to normal use. A physician may recommend exercises to improve hand movement and stiffness.
Some fractures may require surgery, like those from a crushing incident or those that break through the skin. In this surgery, the bones are realigned with the use of wires or screws. These mechanisms keep the bones in place when an external support alone would not work properly. A fracture callus or a bony lump at the site of fracture may appear post-surgery, but it is expected and will shrink over time. The recovery process may require lifestyle accommodations and a post-surgery hand therapy program.
If you need a consultation about your hand fracture, please call Dr. Leah Urbanosky for an appointment at: (815) 462-3474.
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