Scaphoid Fracture of the Wrist in Children: Care Instructions

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A scaphoid fracture (also called a navicular fracture) is a break in a small bone on the thumb side of your child's wrist. It can cause pain and swelling in the wrist and make it hard for your child to move their wrist.

Your child may have broken this bone by putting their hand out to break a fall.

Treatment for this type of break includes wearing an arm cast or splint and sometimes having surgery. The type of treatment depends on how bad the break is.

Even if the first X-rays don't show a break, there may be one. If your doctor thinks a break is possible, it will be treated. It is better to do this than risk not treating a break and possibly delay healing. If the doctor treats the break, your child may need to come back in 1 to 2 weeks for another X-ray. Or the doctor may order another test such as an MRI.

It is important to follow the doctor's instructions because parts of the scaphoid bone do not have a good blood supply. This can make healing slow and difficult.

Healthy habits can help your child heal. Give your child a variety of healthy foods. And don't smoke around your child.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's wrist for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Prop up your child's wrist on pillows when your child sits or lies down in the first few days after the injury. Keep the wrist higher than the level of the heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for wearing a splint or cast.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has problems with the cast or splint. For example:
    • The skin under the cast or splint is burning or stinging.
    • The cast or splint feels too tight.
    • There is a lot of swelling near the cast or splint. (Some swelling is normal.)
    • Your child has a new fever.
    • There is drainage or a bad smell coming from the cast or splint.
  • Your child has severe or increasing pain.
  • Your child's fingers turn cold or change color.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the hand and fingers.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.