Fractures are also commonly termed broken bones. They typically occur from traumatic injuries but can also occur with minimal everyday activities (read more- expand here) if the bone has been weakened for any reason (pathological fracture) such as osteoporosis or a bone tumour or empty screw hole from previously removed fixation. They can occur in the part of the bone outside the joint (extra-articular fractures) or involve the joint surface (intra-articular fractures) that is covered with the smooth cartilage that allows friction-free gliding of the bone surfaces.
Fractures involving the joint surface can be more serious and cause long term problems with stiffness, deformity or risk of arthritis. The aims of fracture treatment are to maintain alignment of the bones to allow pain-free and functional movement of the involved body part. Sometimes this involves casting (hyperlink to photo) or splinting (photo) or surgery to fix the bones with plates and screws or wires.
Common fractures in the hand and upper limb include:
- Distal radius (wrist) fractures
- proximal humerus fractures
- scaphoid fractures
- metacarpal fractures
- phalanx fractures
- radius/ulna fractures
- humerus shaft fractures
- clavicle fractures
Fractures should be immobilised in safe positions which prevent other secondary joint stiffness or contractures.
Fractures in children have the added complexity of growth, this can work in favour of fracture healing but can sometimes lead to complex problems where the growth plate can be injured and affect the growing bone shape or structure.
If you have been diagnosed with a fracture in the hand or upper limb, you should seek a specialist opinion from your surgeon, sports doctor or physiotherapist/hand therapist. They will be able to advise you of whether the fracture can be managed in a splint/cast or requires surgery.