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Broken Hand

When to Seek Medical Care

Your hands are central to being able to function, and you should be certain that no permanent damage has been done.

Because your hands are so important, a doctor should see any hand injury, except the most minor. Contact your doctor, who may refer you to the emergency department for diagnosis and treatment.

Exams and Tests

Most injuries of the hand will require an X-ray. The history of how the hand was injured will help the doctor determine the most likely fracture. For example, if the hand was injured by punching, the most likely fracture is that of the fifth metacarpal.

The doctor will touch your fingers and hand and wrist to determine the areas that are most painful and to evaluate if any damage has occurred to the blood vessels or nerves or tendons in the hand.

Broken Hand Treatment Self-Care at Home

Generally, any hand injury -- except for the most minor one -- should be seen by a doctor. Simple first aid, however, can help prevent further injury.

  • Control any bleeding by placing a clean cloth or gauze pad over the wound.
  • As soon as the injury has occurred, apply ice to the injured area to decrease pain and reduce swelling.
  • Remove any jewelry immediately. The hand may swell dramatically, and jewelry will be almost impossible to remove after the swelling has started.
  • Contact your doctor, who will often refer you to an emergency department for diagnosis and treatment.
  • If the hand is obviously deformed, try to support the injured hand by placing it on a pillow and carrying the pillow with you to the hospital or doctor's office.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as directed on the label for pain.

Medical Treatment

Because of the complexity of the hand, treatment of hand injuries can become involved. The procedure is usually as follows:

  • The doctor will usually obtain an X-ray.
  • Your hand may be partially numbed by injecting the nerves at the wrist or at the base of a finger. Wounds will be carefully irrigated and explored.
  • Any cuts usually will be closed carefully (whether with stitches or other means).
  • You may be given antibiotics to keep the wound from becoming infected.
  • The injured part will be immobilized in a splint to hold it in a particular position.
  • You may be referred to a hand specialist (orthopedic or plastic surgeon).
  • You may receive pain medicine to use for several days after the injury.

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