What happens if a scaphoid fracture is misdiagnosed?

Person wearing a cast or supporting bandage around their wrist

If you have suffered a scaphoid fracture which was misdiagnosed, or the diagnosis was delayed, it may have a long-term effect on your wrist.

This post examines how a scaphoid fracture occurs, how it should be treated, and what to do if it has been misdiagnosed or not treated properly.

What is a scaphoid fracture?

The scaphoid is one of eight carpal bones. It’s in the wrist, near the thumb. Although small, it performs an important function: it connects the bones that are closest to the hand with those that are closest to the arm.

A fracture occurs when the scaphoid cracks or breaks. There are different types of scaphoid fracture, and they can vary in severity.

A displaced fracture is more serious and means pieces of the bone have moved. A displaced fracture is likely to need surgery. With a non-displaced fracture, the bones are still in place.

The scaphoid is one of eight carpal bones.

How is a scaphoid fracture caused?

A scaphoid fracture is often caused by someone falling and landing on their hand. However, other types of accidents, where pressure is put on the hand or wrist, can also be a cause.

What are the symptoms of a scaphoid fracture?

The most obvious symptoms are pain, tenderness, and / or swelling in the wrist, particularly near the base of the thumb.

You may get pain on moving your wrist or may not be able to move your wrist. Sometimes there is bruising or a small lump. However, there may not be any obvious injuries. It is possible to confuse a scaphoid fracture with a sprained wrist.

How are scaphoid fractures diagnosed?

Scaphoid fractures can be difficult to diagnose. A health care professional will initially carry out a physical examination and ask you questions. You will then need an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.

Not all scaphoid fractures show clearly on an X-ray; you may need an MRI or CT scan. The reason for this is that the health professional needs to identify how bad the fracture is.

Anatomical illustration of hand and wrist bones

How should a scaphoid fracture be treated?

The appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of the break.

In the most serious cases, it will be necessary to have an operation to realign the bones and secure them in place. You may even need metal plates to hold everything in place while the bones mend.

In other serious cases, bone grafting may be needed. This involves adding bone tissue to help the fracture mend.

With less serious fractures, it may be possible to realign the bones through physical manipulation, without the need for surgery. A plaster cast or splint will be needed to keep the wrist still and straight while it mends.

What happens if a scaphoid fracture is misdiagnosed?

If diagnosed and treated within a few days, most scaphoid fractures heal without issues or long-term problems. However, serious scaphoid fracture complications can occur if the fracture goes untreated or treatment is delayed.

Over a long period, it can lead to a condition known as avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis) which effectively results in the death of bone tissue. It is painful and can limit movement in the wrist. It occurs if blood flow to the bones is cut off due to the fracture.

If the bones don’t heal or are delayed in healing, it can also result in arthritis, which in turn causes painful stiffness and swelling.

Man swinging tennis racket at ball on tennis court

Who is to blame for a poor or late scaphoid fracture diagnosis?

If you have damaged your wrist, particularly in a fall, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible.

If the medical professional fails to diagnose a scaphoid fracture, or there is a delay in the diagnosis and treatment, it may be due to medical negligence. This will depend on whether the standard of care you received was reasonable.

How do I prove medical negligence?

In most cases, you will need professional advice from a clinical negligence solicitor. They will listen to your account of what happened, assess the medical evidence, and then advise you as to whether medical negligence occurred.

If they believe you can make a successful claim, the solicitor will explain how to do that, as well as the amount of compensation to request.

At Devonshires Claims, our experienced team of clinical negligence solicitors has the necessary expertise to assist you with misdiagnosis and delayed treatment cases, including situations involving scaphoid fractures.

In addition to helping you understand whether medical negligence occurred, and collating the evidence needed to support your case, our solicitors can represent you through the legal process of claiming compensation on a no win no fee basis.

For more information, or to start your free case evaluation, contact Devonshires Claims today. Call 0333 016 5180, email admin@devonshiresclaims.co.uk, or use our online contact form.

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