When we fall, our first instinct is to put out our hands to catch ourselves. Unfortunately, the force this exerts on the bones of the hand and arm can be substantial enough to cause the bones to fracture. Breaks to the hand, wrist, and arm are common side effects of today’s recreational activities, but can also occur as a result of a car accident or just a fall down the stairs or a slip on the ice. Symptoms of a fracture can include pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling, limited range of motion, or deformity. If you believe that you have fractured one or more bones in your arm or hand, seek a medical diagnosis immediately: bones begin to heal themselves within hours of injury, and a fracture must be treated quickly to prevent long-term injury and disability.
Properly treating a fracture within the complex structures of the hand can be extremely complicated, and if not done correctly, can lead to long-term discomfort, decreased function, and even deformity. Therefore, it is critical to select a surgeon who has extensive experience performing surgical repairs on the hand, wrist, and arm. Dr. Asaf Yalif, lead surgeon at Y Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is triple Board Certified in Plastic Surgery, Hand Surgery, and Orthopedic Surgery, and is the only surgeon in the Atlanta area to offer this unique combination of specializations. At his offices in Atlanta, Roswell, Woodstock, GA, you will discover a boutique-style, patient-friendly surgical practice where you can be sure that your fracture will be treated the right way in order to return your fingers and hands to their optimal range of motion and function as quickly and effectively as possible!
TYPES OF FRACTURES: THE BASICS
There are a number of different ways in which a bone can fracture, each of which has significant implications for diagnosis and treatment. Fractures can be classified by the angle of force exerted on the bone (transverse/oblique/spiral), as well as by the severity of the bone deformity:
- Displaced: the bone snaps in two and the fractured ends are not lined up straight
- Non-displaced: the bone cracks but maintains a straight alignment at the broken ends
- Closed/Simple: the fracture remains inside the body and does not penetrate through the skin
- Open/Compound: the skin is punctured (considered severe due to increased risk of infection)
- Comminuted: when the bone breaks into multiple pieces
- Buckle fracture: when the ends of the bone are driven into each other, compressing the bone
- Stress fracture: a hairline crack on the bone
COMMON ARM, HAND, AND WRIST FRACTURES
Within the structures of the arm and hand, the majority of fractures fall into these main categories:
- Distal Radius Fracture (Colles’ Fracture): Commonly caused by a fall onto the outstretched arm, causing radius (forearm bone) to break, usually about one inch above the wrist. Fractures extending into the joint are known as intra-articular; extra-articular fractures do not.
- Distal Ulna Fracture: Similar to a distal radius fracture, but involving a fracture of the second forearm bone—the ulna.
- Fracture of the Finger: Even a small fracture of the finger can be serious if not treated properly, causing long-term stiffness, pain, and misalignment, and impairing specialized functionality.
- Hand Fracture: Breaks in the long bones of the hand, known as the metacarpals, account for about one-third of all hand fractures; “boxer’s fractures” are breaks in the fifth bone of the hand leading to the little finger. Fractures can occur near the knuckle, mid-bone, or toward the wrist.
- Scaphoid Fracture: The scaphoid is a small bone in the wrist, located on the thumb side where the wrist bends; this type of fracture is also a common result of a fall onto the palm of the hand. Because of the small size of this bone, an MRI may be required for proper diagnosis.
- Thumb Fracture: A small but serious injury because the thumb plays a crucial role in the hand’s ability to function properly. Injuries to the thumb also increase the risk of arthritis. Made up of several small bones, the most severe, difficult-to-treat breaks occur near the joints.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR HAND, ARM, AND WRIST FRACTURES
Bones have an amazing ability to heal themselves, and begin to “knit” together to form new bone tissue within hours of injury. All treatment options follow one basic rule: realign the bones into the proper position (“reduction”), and then ensure that the bones remain immobilized until fully healed, usually with a rigid plaster or fiberglass cast but occasionally with an external frame attached to the bone.
Surgery is required in cases of severe breaks when the bones cannot be reduced through the skin and must be manually manipulated back into position through an incision. Surgery may also be required if the bone needs additional assistance to remain in position through the healing process. In these cases, metal pins, screws, nails, plates, rods, and/or wires may be surgically attached to the fragmented ends of the bone to hold them in place; often, this hardware is left in place permanently to avoid risk of infection during a removal surgery.
CONTACT Y PLASTIC AND RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY
Dr. Asaf Yalif, lead surgeon at Y Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, is uniquely qualified to provide advanced, cutting-edge surgical treatment options for degenerative or traumatic hand and upper extremity issues. The only surgeon in the Atlanta area specializing in the rare combination of hand and plastic surgery, Dr. Yalif is triple Board Certified in Plastic Surgery, Hand Surgery, and Orthopedic Surgery. His unique perspective on soft tissue, joint, and bone-related conditions of the hand, fingers, wrist, and elbow enables him to offer a variety of medical and surgical options unavailable at traditional orthopedic practices. Y Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is a friendly, welcoming boutique medical practice where cutting-edge surgical techniques are coupled with an emphasis on the patient experience; whether you are dealing with a traumatic injury or a long-standing degenerative disease, Dr. Yalif will take the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to ensure that your hands can work as hard as you do!
Y Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has offices conveniently located in Atlanta, Roswell, and Woodstock, Georgia. If you need immediate treatment for a fracture of the arm, wrist, hand, or thumb and would like to learn how Dr. Yalif can help, or would like information on the surgical options available at Y Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, we encourage you to contact us today for an initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!