Updated: 11/3/2022

Scaphoid Fracture

Review Topic
Videos / Pods
https://upload.orthobullets.com/topic/6034/images/Blood supply TTC_moved.jpg
https://upload.orthobullets.com/topic/6034/images/bone scan.jpg
  • Summary
    • Scaphoid Fractures are the most common carpal bone fracture, often occurring after a fall onto an outstretched hand.
    • Diagnosis can generally be made by dedicated radiographs but CT or MRI may be needed for confirmation.
    • Treatment may require a prolonged period of cast immobilization, percutaneous surgical fixation, or open reduction and internal fixation. 
  • Epidemiology
    • Incidence
      • 15% of acute wrist injuries
      • 60% of all carpal fracture
      • 8 per 100,000 females, 38 per 100,000 males
    • Demographics
      • 2 :1 male : female
      • most common in third decade of life
    • Anatomic location
      • percentage of fractures by scaphoid anatomic location
        • waist -65%
        • proximal third - 25%
        • distal third - 10%
          • Historically the distal pole is most common location in pediatrics due to ossification sequence, however more recently waist fractures have become most common
  • Etiology
    • Pathophysiology
      • pathoanatomy
        • most common mechanism of injury is axial load across a hyper-dorsiflexed, pronated and ulnarly-deviated wrist
        • common in contact sports
        • transverse fracture patterns are considered more stable than vertically or obliquely oriented fractures
    • Associated conditions
      • SNAC (Scaphoid Nonunion Advanced Collapse)
  • Anatomy
    • Osteology
      • complex 3-dimensional structure described as resembling a boat, skiff, and twisted peanut
      • oriented obliquely from extremity's long-axis (implications for advanced imaging techniques)
      • largest bone in proximal carpal row
      • > 75% of scaphoid bone is covered by articular cartilage
      • articulates with radius, lunate, trapezium, trapezoid, and capitate
    • Blood supply
      • major blood supply is dorsal carpal branch (branch of the radial artery)
        • enters scaphoid in a nonarticular ridge on the dorsal surface and supplies proximal 80% of scaphoid via retrograde blood flow
      • minor blood supply from superficial palmar arch (branch of volar radial artery)
        • enters distal tubercle and supplies distal 20% of scaphoid
      • creates vascular watershed and poor fracture healing environment
    • Biomechanics
      • link between proximal and distal carpal row
      • both intrinsic and extrinsic ligaments attach and surround the scaphoid
      • the scaphoid flexes with wrist flexion and radial deviation and extends during wrist extension and ulnar deviation (same as proximal row)
    • See Wrist Ligaments and Biomechanics for more detail
  • Classification
      • Herbert and Fisher Classification (based on fracture stability)
      • Type A
      • Stable, acute fractures
      • Type B
      • Unstable, acute fractures (distal oblique, complete waist, proximal pole, trans-scaphoid and perilunate associated fractures)
      • Type C
      • Delayed union characterized by cyst formation and fracture widening
      • Type D
      • Nonunion
      • Mayo classification (based on location of fracture line)
      • Type I
      • Distal tubercle fracture
      • Type II
      • Distal articular surface fracture
      • Type III
      • Distal third fracture
      • Type IV
      • Middle third fracture
      • Type V
      • Proximal third fracture
      • Russe Classification (based on fracture pattern)
      • Type I
      • Horizontal oblique fracture line
      • Type II
      • Transverse fracture line
      • Type III
      • Vertical oblique fracture line
  • Presentation
    • History
      • high or low energy fall onto outstretched hand
    • Symptoms
      • variable level of pain over wrist
    • Physical exam
      • inspection
        • wrist swelling
        • rarely any ecchymosis, hematoma, or gross deformity
      • motion
        • worsened wrist pain with circumduction
      • pain with resisted pronation
      • provocative tests
        • anatomic snuffbox tenderness dorsally
        • scaphoid tubercle tenderness volarly
        • scaphoid compression test
          • positive test when pain reproduced with axial load applied through thumb metacarpal
        • 87-100% sensitivity and 74% specificity when all three tests positive within 24 hours of injury
  • Imaging
    • Radiographs
      • recommended views
        • neutral rotation PA
        • lateral
        • semi-pronated (45°) oblique
        • scaphoid
          • 30 degree wrist extension, 20 degree ulnar deviation
          • waist fractures seen best
      • findings
        • if radiographs are negative (27%) and there is a high clinical suspicion
        • repeat radiographs in 14-21 days
    • Bone scan
      • indications
        • occult fractures in acute setting
      • sensitivity and specificity
        • specificity of 98%, and sensitivity of 100%, PPV 85% to 93% when done at 72 hours
    • MRI
      • indications
        • most sensitive for diagnosis occult fractures < 24 hours
        • immediate identification of fractures / ligamentous injuries
        • assessment of vascular status of bone (vascularity of proximal pole)
          • proximal pole AVN best determined on T1 sequences
      • sensitivity and specificity
        • approach 100% for occult fractures
    • CT scan with 1mm cuts along scaphoid axis
      • indications
        • best modality to evaluate fracture location, angulation, displacement, fragment size, extent of collapse, and progression of nonunion or union after surgery
      • sensitivity and specificity
        • 62% sensitivity and 87% specific for determining stability and fracture
        • less effective than bone scan and MRI to diagnose occult fracture
  • Treatment
    • Nonoperative
      • cast immobilization
        • indications
          • stable nondisplaced fracture (majority of fractures)
          • if patient has normal radiographs but there is a high level of suspicion can immobilize in thumb spica and reevaluate in 12 to 21 days
        • outcomes
          • scaphoid fractures with <1mm displacement have union rate of 90%
    • Operative
      • percutaneous screw fixation
        • indications
          • unstable fractures as shown by
            • proximal pole fractures
            • displacement > 1 mm without significant angulation or deformity
          • non-displaced waist fractures
            • to allow decreased time to union, faster return to work/sport, similar total costs compared to casting
        • outcomes
          • union rates of 90-95% with operative treatment of scaphoid fractures
            • CT scan is helpful for evaluation of union
      • open reduction internal fixation
        • indications
          • significantly displaced fracture patterns
          • 15° scaphoid humpback deformity
          • radiolunate angle > 15° (DISI)
          • intrascaphoid angle of > 35°
          • scaphoid fractures associated with perilunate dislocation
          • comminuted fractures
          • unstable vertical or oblique fractures
        • outcomes
          • accuracy of reduction correlated with rate of union
  • Technique
    • Cast immobilization
      • technique
        • start immobilization early
          • nonunion rates increase with delayed immobilization of > 4 weeks after injury
        • long arm spica vs short arm casting is controversial
          • no consensus
          • duration of casting depends on location of fracture and risk of nonunion
          • immobilization maintained until radiographic fracture healing demonstrated, usually no sooner than 8 weeks
          • may be required for up to 12-14 weeks for high-risk fracture patterns/patients
          • athletes should not return to play until imaging shows a healed fracture
        • may opt to augment with pulsed electromagnetic field (studies show beneficial in delayed union)
        • formal therapy following immobilization to regain range of motion
    • Percutaneous screw fixation
      • approach
        • dorsal approach
          • best for proximal pole fractures
          • care must be taken to avoid EPL tendon and to preserve the blood supply when entering the dorsal ridge
            • limit exposure to the proximal half of the scaphoid
          • percutaneous has higher risk of unrecognized screw penetration of subchondral bone
        • volar approach
          • indicated in waist and distal pole fractures
          • fractures with humpback flexion deformities
          • allows exposure of the entire scaphoid
          • avoids jeopardizing scaphoid blood supply
          • uses the interval between the FCR and the radial artery
          • careful capsule management to allow closure and restoration of RSC ligament
        • arthroscopic assisted approach
          • has also been described to aid in anatomic reduction
      • technique
        • precise wire placement in central axis to guide cannulated screw
        • do not violate scaphotrapeziotrapezoidal joint cartilage
        • rigidity is optimized by long screw placed down the central axis of the scaphoid
        • oblique fluoroscopic images to confirm placement and appropriate screw length
    • Open reduction internal fixation
      • approach
        • dorsal and volar approaches as above
      • technique
        • allows direct visualization and reduction at fracture site
        • screw placement as above
  • Complications
    • Scaphoid Nonunion
      • incidence
        • 5-10% following immobilization, higher rates for proximal pole fractures
      • risk factors
        • vertical oblique fracture pattern, displacement >1mm, advancing age, nicotine use
      • treatment
        • vascularized or nonvascularid bone grafting procedures
    • Osteonecrosis
      • incidence
        • 13-50% of all scaphoid fractures
        • many studies showing 100% in proximal fifth fractures with immobilization
    • Malunion
      • flexion of distal fragment and extension of proximal fragment due to pull of scapholunate interosseous ligament creating shortened bone with humpback deformity
      • treatment
        • no clear indications supporting operative versus non-operative treatment
    • Subchondral bone penetration with arthrosis due to prominent hardware
      • incidence
        • seen following mini-open fixation techniques
        • incidence has decreased with use of fluoroscopy
      • treatment
        • revision surgical fixation versus implant removal following union
    • SNAC wrist (scaphoid nonunion advanced collapse)
  • Prognosis
    • Incidence of AVN (without treatment) is directly correlated with proximity of fracture to proximal pole
      • proximal 5th AVN rate of 100%
      • proximal 3rd AVN rate of 33%
Flashcards (25)
1 of 25
Questions (17)

(SBQ17SE.60) A 24-year-old male computer programmer injures his wrist two years ago while LARPing. At the time he was diagnosed with a scaphoid fracture but he was finishing school and did not seek treatment. He presents to your office two years later. Figure A is the patient's X-Ray from your clinic. Advanced imaging confirms the cystic nature of the fracture site. To aid in fracture healing, you elect to harvest a vascularized graft and an intraoperative photo is seen in Figure B. What is the pedicle most often supplying this graft?

QID: 211765

Longitudinal branch of the descending geniculate artery



Transverse branch of the descending geniculate artery



Superomedial genicular artery



1,2 intercompartmental supraretinacular artery



Peroneal artery



L 1 A

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

(SBQ17SE.4) A 25-year-old soldier fell during combat training and sustained the injury seen in Figure A. Operative and non-operative management were discussed with the patient who elected for non-operative treatment. Which of the following should be immobilized for optimal management of the injury?

QID: 211149

Thumb, wrist, and elbow



Wrist and elbow



Thumb and wrist






Immobilization is not necessary



L 5 A

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

(SBQ17SE.17) A 19-year-old military service-member visits your office and complains of significant wrist pain. He was able to pass basic training but had considerable discomfort with pushups. When he was a senior in highschool he hurt his wrist playing football. He underwent surgery in his hometown but never felt like he got back to his pre-injury level of function. Radiographs are provided in Figures A and B. What modification of surgical technique may have better served this fracture pattern on the index procedure?

QID: 211292

Achieving a more center-center screw position



Using a dorsal approach with an anterograde screw



Using a non-cannulated screw



Using a vascularized bone transfer



Using a percutaneous approach



L 3 A

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK
Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK
Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK
Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK
Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK

(OBQ09.36) A 22-year-old male snowboarder falls on an outstretched hand and presents with the radiograph shown in Figure A. Which of the following techniques is MOST important in optimizing biomechanical fixation?

QID: 2849

Using a screw placed in the central axis of the scaphoid into the subchondral bone



Using a supplementary K-wire transfixing the distal pole of the scaphoid to the capitate



Using a screw placed in the dorsal axis of the scaphoid into the subchondral bone



Using a larger diameter screw placed in the dorsal axis of the scaphoid



Using a larger diameter screw placed in the volar axis of the scaphoid



L 3 C

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

(OBQ09.234) Which of the following statements is TRUE about force transmission based on wrist position?

QID: 3047

neutral wrist position decreases force through the lunate fossa



extended wrist position increases force through the lunate fossa



neutral wrist position increases force through the scaphoid fossa



extended wrist position increases force through the scaphoid fossa



wrist position has no effect on force transmission



L 1 D

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

(OBQ09.56) An open dorsal approach for antegrade screw fixation of a nondisplaced scaphoid waist fracture differs in which of the following ways compared to a percutaneous dorsal approach?

QID: 2869

Decreased risk of proximal pole AVN



Increased risk of posterior interosseous nerve injury



Decreased risk of injury to the APL tendon



Increased risk of injury to the EPL tendon



Decreased risk of screw prominence above subchondral bone



L 3 D

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK
Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK

(OBQ08.111) Percutaneous screw fixation for non-displaced scaphoid waist fractures has been shown to have which of the following differences compared to closed treatment?

QID: 497

Decreased direct costs



Slower return to work



Higher union rates



Reduced time to fracture union



Improved motion and grip strength after 2 years



L 3 D

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK

(OBQ06.16) A 27-year-old professional cowboy is thrown from a bull during the rodeo and lands on his hand. No deformity is identified and the hand is completely neurovascularly intact. Pain is present upon palpation of the anatomic snuffbox. A radiograph is provided in Figure A. The cowboy wants to return to competitive riding tomorrow. Which of the following is the best next step in management?

QID: 27

Cock-up wrist splint and immediate return to sport as tolerated by pain



Steroid injection of the snuffbox, taping of the wrist and return to sport



Wrist MRI



Percutaneous screw fixation of the nondisplaced fracture



Scapholunate ligament repair and percutaneous pin fixation



L 1 D

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

(OBQ05.130) A 35-year-old woman reports wrist pain after a fall onto an outstretched hand. On exam, she has focal tenderness over the wrist snuffbox. A radiograph and CT image are shown in Figures A and B. What is the proper treatment of her injury?

QID: 1016

Rest, ice, elevation



Removable splint for comfort



Thumb spica cast



Open reduction, internal fixation



Vascularized bone grafting



L 1 D

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Evidence (77)
Private Note