Fractures of the Hand, Wrist & Elbow

Fracture is condition that involves the breaking of bones, which results in pain.

Boxer's Fracture

A Boxer’s fracture refers to a break at the end of the bone nearest the knuckle of the little finger. This type of fracture commonly occurs when someone punches a hard surface with a closed fist in which the little finger knuckle makes contact first.

Boxer's Fracture symptoms include:

  • Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the knuckle of the little finger
  • Bruising in the hand
  • ‘Flattened’ appearance of the knuckle of the little finger
  • Difficulty extending the little finger

Most Boxer’s fractures can be treated with a cast to stabilize the fracture. If the knuckle is severely deformed a procedure called a closed reduction may be needed to push the fracture back into proper alignment before casting.

Colles Fracture

A Colles fracture is a break of one or both of the bones in the forearm just above the wrist. This type of fracture most often occurs when a person tries to catch himself or herself when falling forward by extending the hands and arms to reduce the impact of hitting the ground.

Colles Fracture symptoms include:
  • Pain and swelling just above the wrist
  • Inability to hold or lift heavy objects

Colles fracture treatment typically includes immobilizing the wrist and arm with a cast. If the fracture is more severe, surgery might be required which would include pins or screws to hold the bones together.

Distal Radial Fracture

The radius and ulna are the two bones in your forearm. A fracture of the distal end of the radius, the end of the bone near the wrist, is the most commonly broken bone of the wrist. Falling on an outstretched hand usually causes this type of fracture.

Symptoms of Distal Radial Fracture include:

  • Wrist appears crooked and deformed
  • Pain, tenderness and swelling in the wrist
  • Difficulty moving the wrist

Distal radial fracture treatment options vary depending on the severity of the fracture. If the ends of the bones are aligned, a brace will be applied. If the fracture is displaced, the doctor may need to realign the ends of the bones and then apply a brace to immobilize the wrist while the bones heal. Our hand doctors at Emory will discuss the best treatment option for your distal radius fracture.

Elbow Fracture

An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow joint. The bones in the elbow joint include the humerus (upper arm bone), the ulna (the larger of the forearm bones at the elbow) and the radius (the smaller of the forearm bones at the elbow). Elbow fractures are typically caused by trauma to the elbow which can occur by:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • Falling directly on the elbow
  • Direct blow to the elbow
  • Twisting the elbow beyond the elbow's normal range of motion

Some sports are more likely than others to create these circumstances for injury including football, basketball, hockey, wrestling and gymnastics. Natural risk factors that can increase the chance of elbow fracture include advancing age, decreased muscle mass, osteoporosis or other bone diseases.

Elbow Fracture Symptoms

  • Pain in and around the elbow
  • Numbness in fingers, hands or lower arm
  • Decreased range of motion
  • A lump or visible deformity over the fracture site
  • Tenderness, swelling and bruising around the elbow

Elbow Fracture Treatment Options

Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improves recovery from an elbow fracture. Depending on the severity of the fracture, a temporary cast or splint may be used to hold the bones in place for healing. In severe cases, a metal plate and screws might be surgically implanted to mend the fracture. Healing time typically takes about 8-12weeks. During that time, range of motion exercises under the guidance of a physician will be employed to improve motion and strengthen the area.

Finger Fracture

A finger fracture is the break of one or more bones in the finger. Finger fractures may be nondisplaced, where the bones are still aligned, or displaced, where the fractured ends of the bone do not line up correctly. Finger fractures are caused by a sharp blow, crush, or twisting injury to the hand or fingers.

Finger Fracture Symptoms

  • Pain and swelling of the injured finger
  • Bruising and deformity of the injured finger
  • Difficulty moving the finger

The most common treatments for a finger fracture include buddy taping or using a removable splint. Buddy taping involves using small strips of tape to tape the injured finger and the finger next to it together to provide support. If the fracture is displaced, surgery may be required to realign the bones by using pins or plates and screws. Our hand surgeons at Emory will discuss the best treatment option for you. Early range of of motion is very important and your doctor will give you instructions about when to start moving your finger.

Pediatric Upper Extremity Fractures

Childhood fractures occur frequently. From common injuries such as broken wrists or elbows to those that are more complex involving multiple bones, pediatric orthopedists at Emory have the experience to treat your child's injury expediently and appropriately. Each child is monitored after his or her injury to ensure that all fractures heal and that no growth plate injury occurred at the time of initial fracture. Potential complications of broken bones including incomplete healing, infection, or injury to the growth plate of the bone may need treatment after the injury. Your child's surgeon will be able to discuss the injury, treatment, and what you can expect down the road.

Scaphoid Fracture

Fractures of the scaphoid occur most commonly from a fall on the outstretched hand. There is usually no visible deformity and only minimal swelling. Since there is no deformity, many people with this injury mistakenly assume that they have just sprained their wrist. If the fracture is non-displaced, it can be treated by immobilization in a cast that usually covers the forearm, hand, and thumb. If the fracture is more severe and displaced, surgery will be necessary. Our hand surgeons at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center will discuss the best treatment option for you.