The bones in a normal hand are interconnected and arranged precisely, to allow many functions like grasping a pen or manipulating tiny objects with the fingers and thumb. When a finger bone is fractured and displaced, it can put the whole hand out of alignment and disrupt many functions of the hand. Without proper treatment and early movement, the broken finger may stay stiff and painful.
When should a fracture of the hand be suspected?
Fracture should be suspected when the fingers or thumb or the palm is painful, deformed or swollen following any traumatic events such as a fall on the hand, a knock on the hand or fingers, a trapped fingers or hand and a deep cut on the hand. You may be unable to move the finger and your finger may crosses over an adjacent finger when making a partial grip.
Making the diagnosis
The hand surgeon will ask about what happened, examine the hand and wrist, and order X-rays of the area. The X-rays will show not only which bone is fractured, but also the number of fragments and displacement: straight across, into several pieces or completely shattered.
Further examination will be performed by the hand surgeon to determine ensure if the nearby nerves and blood vessels are not damaged by the traumatic event or the broken bones.
If the bone is cracked or broken but not displaced, the finger or hand can be splinted to ensure that the fracture does not displaced any further while awaiting for the broken bone to heal.
If the bone is broken and displaced, the alignment of the hand or finger is distorted. The broken bone must be manipulated to restore its alignment. Some fractures cannot be aligned from manipulation alone and may need operation to access and reduce the fracture. Afterward the bone will be splinted with a cast. or splint. Alternatively, the bone can also be stabilized with internal implants like screws and plates or wires. This type of fixation is very stable and allows early movement of the hand and fingers. Thus, stiffness associated with prolonged splinting is avoided.
The hand surgeon will discuss the best method of treatment based on the fracture configurations and your profile (eg. age, associated medical illness, work, sports, and other requirements).