The hand is made up of small bones in the fingers called phalanges and long bones that connect them to the wrist called metacarpals. These bones support a network of attachments of muscles and tendons that allow the hand to function. A fracture occurs when there is enough force on the hand to break any of these bones. Some fractures are simple with the bones still well aligned, while others are unstable where the bones become crooked or misaligned.
The University of Michigan hand surgery team is a group of fellowship-trained hand Surgeons and specializes in the treatment of hand fractures, from simple to complex. Our goal is to restore mobility and function of the hand as soon as possible with minimal impact on the patient’s quality of life.
Risk Factors for Hand Fractures
There are several factors that cause hand fractures:
- Falling onto an outstretched arm, especially from a standing position or higher
- A direct blow to the area, such as in a car accident
- Crushing of the hand
- Accident while playing sports
Symptoms of Hand Fractures
A hand fracture should be evaluated for immediate treatment. Fractures that involve any joints in the hand may result in early arthritis.
Common signs and symptoms of hand fractures include:
- Pain, swelling, and bruising of the hand
- Difficulty with motion of the affected fingers
- Obvious deformity with a crooked finger
Diagnosis of Hand Fractures
Whether it takes place in an emergency room or office visit, a physical examination of the affected area is needed to diagnose a hand fracture.
Additional imaging may also be needed to confirm the presence and extent of the injury:
- X-ray: Images used to determine if a fracture(s) is present
Treatment of Hand Fractures
Treatment will depend on the bone fractured as well as the pattern of the fracture. If any bones are dislocated, they must be put back into place. Depending on the location and success of bone setting, the hand surgeon will determine if surgery is necessary.
Non-surgical treatment options require immobilization of the bone for 4-6 weeks:
- Setting of the bone
If the fracture is more complex, surgery may be required. Surgical options include:
- Pinning of the bones
- Fixing the bone with screws and plates
After treatment, hand therapy is very important to regain motion of the hand. Stiffness is common after these injuries, and therapy will help minimize it.
Hand Therapy and Rehabilitation for Hand Fractures
Therapy for hand fractures is provided on site at the University of Michigan’s Hand Program by our team of occupational and physical therapists under the direction of a trained hand therapist. Referrals to local providers can be coordinated closer to home as a more convenient option for patients.
The ultimate goal of therapy and rehabilitation is the restoration and optimization of hand function, renewed independence and improved overall quality of life. We offer treatment plans that are tailored to fit each patient’s condition, living and work requirements:
- Non-surgical option: For patients who do not require surgery but would benefit from therapy.
- Post-operative rehabilitation: To help patients as they recover from surgical procedures.
If you are considering treatment for a hand fracture, the University of Michigan Hand Surgeons will guide you, from consultation to recovery, to the best procedures for your individual needs. Our hand surgeons have dual appointments in Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery with a specialization in Hand. Patients may be seen in the Orthopaedic Clinic or the Plastic Surgery Clinic for treatment of hand conditions, or referred to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for non-surgical treatment.
Visit the Make an Appointment at the Comprehensive Hand Center page for contact information for both surgical and non-surgical treatment teams.