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What happens if a scaphoid fracture is left untreated?

24 / 02 / 23

One of the most common wrist injuries that occur in the majority of people is a scaphoid fracture. Whilst it’s not a life-threatening injury, this condition can cause you problems long-term if not treated quickly.

In today’s article, we are going to dive into what can happen if you leave a scaphoid fracture untreated. If you are/know of someone to be carrying this wrist injury – we suggest you carry on reading below. 

What are the causes of a scaphoid fracture?

Firstly, if you’re unsure what a scaphoid fracture is then don’t worry – we can clear this up for you. This condition occurs when the breaking of your scaphoid bone; one of the carpal bones in the hand has occurred around the wrist area.

Usually, a scaphoid fracture occurs when you fall onto your outstretched hand, typically when your palm is flat and your wrist has bent backwards as you land on the ground. However, scaphoid fractures can also happen when your wrist receives any noticeable impact, such as in a car accident or an injury whilst playing sports.


What are the symptoms of a scaphoid fracture?

You can potentially spot if this has occurred because you will notice bruising/swelling around your wrist, and feel pain around the area too. Other symptoms can include the inability to move your wrist or the appearance of a bump that isn’t usually there. So if you are noticing these symptoms, it’s important you see a doctor quickly. 

When you see a doctor, they will likely diagnose that the pain of a scaphoid fracture can often be milder than a typical wrist break, meaning people assume it’s a sprain, and don’t realise they have a fracture until visiting a doctor several weeks later when the pain has not reduced. A scaphoid fracture is typically diagnosed with an x-ray, although it doesn’t always show, due to it being hidden by other carpal bones. Sometimes a CT scan or MRI scan may be needed to diagnose.

Scaphoid bone that can be affected by a scaphoid bone fracture and require treatment

What happens if you leave a scaphoid fracture untreated?

So, to answer your burning question, what happens if you leave it untreated? Well, unfortunately, if you leave this condition untreated it will cause you significant problems long term such as arthritis. The part of the scaphoid that connects with the radius could die which will result in painful arthritis. This can develop over weeks and months, so it’s crucial you don’t leave it untreated. Also, a rupture of the scapholunate ligament can occur if you’re not careful, which is the ligament that connects the scaphoid with the lunate bone. Severe situations can develop from here so it’s important you seek suitable treatment as early as possible to avoid this. 

Also, treatment for a scaphoid fracture can sometimes lead to complications. The fragments can heal in an incorrect position that affects the movement of the wrist and causes pain. This is known as malunion and you will need surgery to correct this. Further down the line, a scaphoid fracture can lead to developing osteoarthritis.

The most important thing to note is that a scaphoid fracture can’t heal on its own, so you should seek treatment as soon as possible when experiencing any symptoms.


Scaphoid fracture treatments 

Scaphoid fracture treatment is determined by whether the bone has been displaced or not. If it hasn’t been displaced then the fracture will be treated by putting your arm in a cast from the wrist to your elbow. It will need to remain in this position for between eight and twelve weeks, to ensure proper healing of the scaphoid bone. On the other hand, if the bone is displaced then surgery is required to heal the fracture. A small screw or pin will be inserted to hold the fragmented bone together, via a small incision. If the idea of surgery worries you, then there is no need to be concerned as Ladan Hajipour will help to put your mind at ease.

Ladan Hajipour has years of experience as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon running three clinics across Manchester and Cheshire. After surgery, Ladan will advise what you can or can’t do, so make sure you listen to the advice she gives you as it’s crucial for your recovery. This won’t be the end of your time with Ladan either, as in the weeks after surgery you will revisit for aftercare appointments to make sure everything is healing as expected. So, you can rest assured knowing you will be looked after. 


Reducing your risk of a scaphoid fracture

At Ladan Hajipour, we highly recommend you follow our general safety guidelines to reduce your risk of an injury:

  • If you use a cane or walker to help walk, always use it and be careful on uneven surfaces
  • Follow a diet and exercise plan that’ll help you maintain good bone health.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about a bone density test if you’re older than 50 or if you have a family history of osteoporosis.
  • Wear the right protective equipment for all activities and sports.
  • Make sure your home and workspace are free from clutter that could trip you or others.


Get in touch with Ladan Hajipour 

If after reading this article you think you will need an expert opinion on scaphoid fractures or any other hand and wrist condition; then Ladan can help dissent the issue you’re suffering from. Her extensive knowledge will diagnose the problem, and from here she will help lay out the best route you can take.

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If you’ve found our latest article an interesting read, or you would like to find out more about scaphoid fractures, get in touch with us today!

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