Broken and Fractured hands
How will I know if my hand is fractured?
The most common tell-tale sign that the damage done to your hand is more than just a sprain or a bruise is that you experience severe pain, which intensifies when you grip, squeeze or move your hand.
Your hand can also be tender to touch, and you may experience swelling and bruising immediately after impact.
Of course, there are more obvious signs such as a crooked finger or the inability to move your fingers and thumb!
Unfortunately, hand fractures or broken fingers aren’t the most pleasant; however, with The Manchester Hand Surgeon, we can make things a bit more bearable and help put you on the right path to recovery.
Technical aspects of a fractured hand
Hand fractures are when damage to the metacarpals and phalanges occur.
The metacarpals and phalanges are the bones from your wrist joint to your finger and thumb tips.
In total, you have five metacarpal bones in the palm of your hands, all of which connect the wrist to each finger.
Working alongside these, you also have 14 phalanges – the bones of your actual fingers and thumb (each finger contains three and your thumbs contain two).
With nineteen bones to look after regularly, it is not uncommon for many different types of fractures to occur, resulting in trauma to your hand.
At the clinic, we will carry out numerous tests and detailed scans on your hand to help identify precisely how severe the fracture is.
For those fractures which we believe to be relatively straightforward, you can expect a recovery time of approximately three weeks.
However, if hand surgery is required, then recovery may take a little longer as you may have a cast instead of a splint; however, all of our surgeons will discuss treatment in full as well as post-operative care and timescales.
Most common fractures and their treatment
Also known as a metacarpal fracture, a broken hand currently accounts for between 30-40% of all hand fractures.
The top three leading causes of a broken hand include falling, punching and general accidents.
The most commonly found broken or fractured metacarpals are those at the edge of your hand, i.e., those that belong to the thumb and the little finger.
Metacarpal bones are also more likely to break at the ends of the bone rather than in the middle, and quite often, more than one metacarpal is broken at the same time.
If you are concerned and feel you are suffering from any of the symptoms below, we would advise you to have your hand examined by a specialist immediately. Symptoms of metacarpal fracture (broken hand) include:
- Difficult to move fingers and thumb
- Part of the hand is misshapen
- Numbness or tingling sensation
Depending on the parts of the bones that are fractured, will depend on which course of treatment will be best for you.
Tailor Treatment Plans
We tailor treatment plans to each individual and work with you to provide the best care and recovery time possible.
Example treatment plans for different metacarpal fractures can include:
- The Boxer’s Fracture. Also clinically known as a 5th metacarpal fracture. This type of fracture can quite often be treated without manipulation or surgery. In these cases, we would recommend resting the hand as well as wearing a splint for added protection. We would also recommend resuming careful movement of the hand within 2 to 3 weeks. The hand should heal fully with no further complications, deformities, or loss of function. However, it is essential to get your hand checked out as soon as you suspect any damage or fractures to prevent any permanent damage and deformities setting in.
- Bennett’s Fracture, known as the 1st metacarpal fracture at the base of the thumb. In these cases, often, surgery will be required as we find with many of our patients with this type of injury, there is often a displacement of the fracture fragments. If surgery is needed, your surgeon will look at the best way for the joint to heal with an even surface to avoid the risk of arthritis occurring at a later stage. This is often done by holding the fracture in position with a fixture known as a k-wire (screws and plates can also be used, although these are less common today). Recovery from this surgical procedure is approximately eight weeks, with a cast or splint being worn for the duration. Sutures will be removed from the hand at around week 4.
- Reverse Bennett’s Fracture, a 4th and 5th metacarpal fracture/dislocation. This type of fracture will also require surgery to protect the future function of the joints. Surgery will involve holding the bones in the correct position, with fixtures being removed at the appropriate point, with the healing process taking up to 8 weeks.
Note: As some fractures to hands and fingers can be caused by punching and fighting we often find in these situations, many of the fractures will be accompanied by a break in the skin. This is typically caused by the initial contact made with a tooth, wall, etc.
At The Manchester Hand Surgeon, we’ll talk to you about the risk of infection, as well as check for any damage to your tendons and joints.
Where surgical treatment is required, antibiotics will also be prescribed post-op.
Broken Finger or Thumb
A phalangeal fracture is where one of the 14 phalanx bones that make up the fingers and thumb, have been damaged due to being crushed, twisted, or due to a sudden impact.
Symptoms of broken fingers and thumbs can include:
- Pain in finger
- Severe swelling
- Numbing sensation
Similar to a broken hand, treatment does depend on the nature of the break and which bones have been affected
Treatment plan for phalangeal fractures
If an operation is not required and the finger can be protected with a splint, treatment can last between two and eight weeks, depending on the location and severity of the injury sustained.
In cases where surgery is required, and similar to metacarpal fractures, if the skin is broken the finger in question and surrounding area will need to be cleaned thoroughly (which will be carried out during surgery) to prevent the chances of infection.
During surgery, a small piece of wire may be inserted to help keep the bone fracture tightly in place, allowing the bone to heal in the correct shape. The wire will typically be in place for three to four weeks, depending on the rate of recovery.
Your cast will need to stay on until we’re satisfied that the fracture and break have completely healed.
This will typically take 4-8 weeks, however if the break has been severe and surgery has been required, recovery time may be longer.
We advise to avoid putting any strain, pressure or weight on the hand and wrist while it is in a cast, however we will provide small exercises to keep the arm and hand moving slightly.
Carrying heavy items, driving and sports should be avoided until the cast has been removed.
For the first 2-5 days, it’s important to keep your arm raised as much as possible to help reduce swelling, as well as carry out gentle exercises to prevent stiffness.
It’s important to contact us as soon as possible if you feel any unusual sensations in your arms or wrist, changes to your skin such as redness, extreme swelling, or even small discharge, could be signs of infection.
Risks and Complications
Until your cast or splint is removed, we’d advise light duties only, gradually increasing how much you use your hand and arm dependant on your recovery.
It’s important to remember, everyone will have different recovery rates, and even when the cast or splint is removed your wrist and hand may still be weak with limited mobility.
In such cases, we will provide treatment plans tailored to you.
At The Manchester Hand Surgeon, our team is available throughout your treatment to provide you with the best possible care. Answering your questions and offering tailored treatment plans for your injury.
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