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Navicular Fracture of the Wrist

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Overview

What is a navicular fracture of the wrist?

A navicular fracture is a break in a small bone on the thumb side of your wrist. Of the eight carpal bones in your wrist, your navicular bone is the most likely one to break.

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It is important to find out if you have a navicular fracture, because navicular fractures need treatment to heal well. With proper treatment and follow-up, most navicular fractures will heal over time. Without treatment, and sometimes with treatment, healing can be slow and difficult because parts of the navicular bone don't have a good blood supply. If your navicular bone does not heal well, you can have long-term pain, stiffness, or arthritis in your wrist.

What causes a navicular fracture?

Most navicular fractures occur when you stretch your hand out in front of you to protect yourself from a fall. They can also occur when your wrist twists severely or is hit very hard. Navicular fractures often happen while a person is playing sports such as football, soccer, or basketball or during activities such as Rollerblading, skateboarding, or bike riding. They can also occur as a result of a car crash or a fistfight.

What are the symptoms?

Because most navicular fractures do not cause the wrist to look broken and many cause only minor symptoms, it can be hard to know if your navicular bone is broken. If the bone is broken, you may have:

  • Pain, tenderness, or swelling on the thumb side of your wrist.
  • A hard time grabbing or gripping things or moving and twisting your wrist or thumb.
  • Bruises around your wrist.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a wrist that is sprained and one that is broken. If you have fallen on an outstretched hand and your wrist hurts, be sure to see a doctor to find out if you have any broken bones. Navicular fractures that are not treated properly can lead to long-term problems.

How is a navicular fracture diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and about how and when you hurt your wrist. He or she will then look at your wrist, find any swollen or tender areas, and see how well you are able to move your wrist and thumb. Your doctor will also try to find out how well blood is flowing to your hand and if you have any nerve damage in your wrist.

Most likely, your doctor will order X-rays of your wrist. Sometimes an X-ray clearly shows a navicular fracture. Other times, an X-ray may not show signs of a fracture. If your doctor is not sure if your wrist is broken, he or she may refer you to an orthopedist, a doctor who specializes in bone problems. Because fractures can't always be seen right away, you may need a follow-up X-ray in 1 to 2 weeks. In the meantime, to prevent possible long-term problems, you will be treated as if you do have a fracture.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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