Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky
975 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028

Broken Hand Treatments

Introduction to Broken Hands: Causes and Symptoms

A broken hand, medically known as a hand fracture, is a common injury that can occur due to various causes such as falls, sports accidents, or direct trauma. It can involve any of the bones in your hand, including the metacarpals and the phalanges.

Symptoms of a broken hand typically include intense pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty in moving the hand and fingers. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options is crucial for a successful recovery.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Hand

To comprehend the impact of a broken hand, it’s essential to understand the hand’s anatomy. The hand is composed of numerous bones, including the metacarpals in the palm and the phalanges in the fingers. Fractures can occur in any of these bones, and the location and severity of the fracture influence the treatment approach.

Diagnosis of a Broken Hand: Tests and Procedures

If a broken hand is suspected, seeking medical attention promptly is vital. An orthopedic hand surgeon will perform a comprehensive evaluation, assessing the symptoms and conducting a physical examination. X-rays are commonly used to confirm the diagnosis, identify the specific bones involved, and determine the extent of the fracture.

Non-Surgical Treatments for a Broken Hand

In many cases, non-surgical treatments can effectively manage and heal broken hands, particularly for stable fractures.

Immobilization: Casts and Splints

One of the primary treatment approaches for a broken hand is immobilization. A splint or cast is applied to stabilize the hand and maintain the bones in the correct position for optimal healing. The duration of immobilization depends on the type and severity of the fracture.

Pain Management: Medications and Home Remedies

To alleviate pain and discomfort associated with a broken hand, a hand surgeon may recommend pain medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be effective, and home remedies such as applying ice packs and elevation may reduce discomfort. 

Surgical Treatments for a Broken Hand

In certain cases, surgery may be necessary to ensure proper alignment and healing of a broken hand, particularly for complex or unstable fractures.

When is Surgery Required?

Surgery is typically recommended when the fracture is severe, displaced, or involves the joint. The decision for hand surgery depends on various factors, including the specific bones affected and the individual patient’s needs.

Types of Hand Surgery for Fractures

Several surgical procedures may be employed to treat broken hands. They include:

  • Closed Reduction and Percutaneous Pinning: This minimally invasive procedure involves manually realigning the fractured bones without making an incision. Using fluoroscopic guidance, the hand surgeon maneuvers the bones into the correct position and then inserts pins through the skin to maintain alignment. This technique is commonly used for stable fractures with minimal displacement.
  • Kirschner Wire (K-wire) Fixation: K-wires are thin stainless steel wires that are inserted through the skin and across the fracture site to stabilize the bones. They can be used alone or in combination with other techniques to maintain proper alignment during healing. K-wire fixation is often used for simple fractures or fractures that require temporary stabilization before further treatment.
  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): This surgical procedure involves making an incision to access the fractured bones and then using screws, plates, or wires to reposition and stabilize them. ORIF is commonly used for complex fractures, displaced fractures, or fractures involving the joint.
  • External Fixation: In this technique, metal pins or wires are inserted into the bones above and below the fracture site. These pins or wires are then connected to an external frame outside the body, which stabilizes the bones and aids in proper healing. External fixation is often used for severe fractures, fractures with extensive soft tissue damage, or fractures requiring gradual correction.
  • Bone Grafting: In cases where there is a significant bone loss or severe comminuted fractures, a bone graft may be necessary. This procedure involves taking bone tissue from another part of the body (autograft) or using donor bone (allograft) to fill in the gaps and promote bone healing. Bone grafting may be performed as a standalone procedure or in combination with other surgical techniques.
  • Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis): If the joint surfaces are severely damaged or the fracture involves the joint, arthrodesis may be performed. This procedure fuses the bones on either side of the joint, eliminating joint movement but providing stability and pain relief. Joint fusion is commonly considered for fractures involving the wrist joint or finger joints.
  • Tendon and Nerve Repair: In some cases, a broken hand may also involve damage to the tendons and nerves that control finger movement and sensation. Surgical repair of the tendons and nerves may be necessary to restore hand functionality and finger movement. This procedure involves reattaching the tendons to their proper locations and repairing any damaged tissue.

Please note that the choice of surgical treatment depends on various factors such as the specific fracture type, the severity of the fracture, the involvement of nearby structures, and your overall health.

It’s important to consult with a qualified hand surgeon such as Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky or Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky of HandSport Surgery Institute to determine the most appropriate surgical treatment for a broken hand.

Rehabilitation and Occupational Therapy for a Broken Hand

After the initial healing phase, rehabilitation and occupational therapy play a crucial role in restoring hand function, strength, and mobility.

An occupational therapist will work closely with you and your hand doctor, developing a customized rehabilitation plan. This may include exercises to improve range of motion, strengthen muscles, and enhance dexterity. Functional activities may also be incorporated to facilitate a successful return to daily activities.

Tips for Quick Recovery from a Hand Fracture

To promote a quick recovery and ensure optimal healing of a broken hand, hand surgeons recommend following these important guidelines:

  1. Adhere to the recommended treatment plan provided by your hand doctor.
  2. Keep the hand immobilized as instructed and avoid activities that may cause further injury.
  3. Take prescribed pain medications as directed to manage discomfort.
  4. Attend all scheduled rehabilitation sessions and diligently perform prescribed exercises as directed

Prevention: How to Prevent Hand Injuries

While accidents can happen, taking precautions to prevent hand injuries is essential. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of hand injuries:

  1. Use protective equipment: Wear appropriate gloves, wrist guards, or handguards when engaging in activities that pose a risk of hand injury, such as sports, construction work, or manual labor.
  2. Practice hand safety at work: Follow safety guidelines and use the correct tools and equipment for the task at hand. Be mindful of potential hazards and take necessary precautions to protect your hands.
  3. Be cautious around machinery: When working with machinery, be aware of moving parts and ensure proper guarding is in place. Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in machinery.
  4. Maintain a safe environment: Keep walkways clear of clutter and ensure proper lighting to minimize the risk of tripping or falling. Remove potential hazards, such as loose rugs or uneven surfaces, that can lead to hand injuries.
  5. Educate yourself on hand safety: Learn proper techniques for using tools, lifting objects, and performing activities that involve your hands. This knowledge can help you minimize the risk of hand injuries.

Think You Have a Broken Hand?

In conclusion, understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for broken hands is crucial for a successful recovery. Non-surgical treatments, such as immobilization and pain management, are often effective, while surgical interventions may be necessary for more complex fractures.

Rehabilitation and adherence to recommended exercises play a vital role in restoring hand function. By taking preventive measures, such as using protective equipment and practicing hand safety, you can reduce the risk of hand injuries and maintain optimal hand health. 

If you suspect a broken hand, consult a Handsport Surgery Institute hand surgeon for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.