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Thumb Fracture


What is a thumb fracture?

A thumb fracture is a crack or break in one or more of the bones in your thumb. A direct blow, such as a fall, can cause a thumb fracture. It can also happen when your thumb is twisted, pulled back, or bent with force.

What are the signs and symptoms of a thumb fracture?

  • Pain and swelling
  • Little or no thumb movement
  • Abnormal thumb shape

How is a thumb fracture diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how your injury occurred and examine your thumb. You may need any of the following:

  • X-ray: This checks for fractures in your thumb.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your thumb. The pictures may show ligament or tissue damage. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the fracture better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is a thumb fracture treated?

  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Cast or splint: You may need a cast or splint to keep your thumb in the correct position as it heals.
  • Closed reduction: Your healthcare provider may need to move the bones of your thumb back into their correct positions. He presses on your hand and thumb to line your bones up without surgery.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery if you have a severe thumb fracture or it does not heal after other treatments:
    • External fixation: Your healthcare provider will put pins or screws through your skin to straighten and hold your bones in place. The screws may be secured to a metal device that wraps around your thumb to hold it in place.
    • Open reduction and internal fixation: Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your thumb to straighten your broken bones. He may use wires, screws and metal plates, or pins to hold your broken bones together.

How do I manage my symptoms?

  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your thumb, splint, or cast for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Elevate: Raise your thumb above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your hand on pillows or blankets to keep your thumb elevated comfortably.
  • Skin care: Check your skin around the cast or splint daily for red or sore areas.
  • Hand therapy: You may need to see a hand therapist once your cast or splint is removed. A hand therapist can help you with exercises to strengthen your hand and help restore movement.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • The skin around your cast becomes red and sore.
  • The skin under your cast or splint itches, and the itch does not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your cast cracks or breaks.
  • You are not able to move your fingers.
  • You have severe pain in your thumb or hand.
  • You have new or increased swelling in your thumb or hand.
  • Your cast feels too tight.
  • Your injured thumb is numb.
  • Your skin under the cast or splint burns or stings.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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