Peter G. Fitzgibbons, MD
Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon
The hand is one of the most flexible and useful parts of our body. Because of overuse in various activities, the hands are more prone to injuries, such as sprains and strains, fractures and dislocations, lacerations and amputations while operating machinery, bracing against a fall and sports-related injuries.
A fracture is a break in the bone, which occurs when force greater than the bearable limit is applied against a bone. The most common symptoms of any fracture include severe pain, swelling, bruising or bleeding, deformity, discoloration of the skin and limited mobility of the hand.
Fingers are fine structures of the human body that assist in daily routine activities through coordinated movements. Any abnormality affecting the fingers can have a huge impact on the quality of life. A finger fracture is not a minor injury, and if left untreated can lead to stiffness, pain, disruption of the alignment of the whole hand and interference with specialized functions such as grasping or manipulating objects. Finger fractures commonly occur during sports activities, when you break a fall or while operating machinery.
The diagnosis of a hand or finger fracture is based on history, physical examinations and X-ray imaging to determine the type and severity of the fracture. X-rays are the most widely used diagnostic tools for the evaluation of fractures.
The objective of early fracture management is to control bleeding, provide pain relief, prevent ischemic injury (bone death) and remove sources of infection such as foreign bodies and dead tissues. The next step in fracture management is the reduction of the fracture and its maintenance. It is important to ensure that the involved part of the body returns to its function after the fracture heals. To achieve this, maintenance of fracture reduction with immobilization technique is done by either non-operative or surgical methods.
The bones can be realigned by manipulating them into place. Following this, splints, casts or braces made up of fiberglass or plaster of Paris material are used to immobilize the bones until they heal. The cast is worn for 3 to 6 weeks.
During surgery, the fracture site is adequately exposed, the bones realigned and reduction of the fracture is done internally using wires, plates and screws and intramedullary nails.
Fractures may take several weeks to months to heal completely. You should limit your activities even after the removal of the cast or brace so that the bone becomes solid enough to bear stress. Rehabilitation program involves exercises and gradual increase in activity levels to strengthen the muscles and improve range of motion.