• Clinical science

Scaphoid fracture


The scaphoid bone is the most commonly fractured carpal bone. Fractures are most often localized in the middle third of the scaphoid bone. Generally, scaphoid bone fractures result from indirect trauma when an individual falls onto the outstretched hand with a hyperextended and radially deviated wrist. Pain when applying pressure to the anatomical snuffbox is highly suggestive of a scaphoid bone fracture. X-ray is the initial test of choice for diagnosis. Computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging may be indicated, if x-ray findings are negative but clinical suspicion is high. Treatment can be conservative (e.g, wrist immobilization) or in certain cases surgical (e.g., proximal pole fracture). Complications include nonunion and avascular necrosis.


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Clinical features

  • History of falling onto the outstretched hand; with a hyperextended and radially deviated wrist [3]
  • Pain when applying pressure to the anatomical snuffbox and scaphoid tubercle (a palpable bony prominence on the inferior lateral edge of the scaphoid bone)
  • Minimal reduction in the range of motion (except in dislocated fractures)
  • Decreased grip strength
  • Painful pinching and grasping
  • Pain can be induced through axial compression along the first metacarpal (scaphoid compression test). [3]

When pain occurs in the anatomical snuffbox after trauma, the injury should be treated as a scaphoid fracture until proven otherwise.


  • Best initial test: x-ray of the wrist in a posteroanterior, lateral, 45° oblique, and possibly scaphoid view
  • If initial x-ray is negative, one of the following:
    • If the patient is not willing to immobilize the wrist: MRI of the wrist [5]
    • If the patient is willing to immobilize the wrist: cast the wrist and repeat an x-ray in 10–14 days
  • If repeat x-ray is normal but continued clinical suspicion of scaphoid fracture: MRI of the wrist

Scaphoid fractures are often undetectable on the initial x-ray.

Differential diagnoses

Lunate dislocation [6][7]

Transscaphoid perilunate dislocation

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.



Fractures in the distal third tend to heal better because of the retrograde blood supply reaching the bone from the distal pole.

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

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last updated 10/26/2020
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