Hand trauma, including fractures and lacerations, can occur during an accident, injury, or sports activity. If you have experienced hand trauma, it is important to seek immediate medical attention with a thorough evaluation to ensure that your injury is properly addressed. In many cases, it is also helpful to consult with a hand surgeon to ensure that you receive the proper surgical intervention, if needed.
Dr. S. R. Brown is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon with additional subspecialty training in hand and upper extremity surgery. Dr. Brown completed her training at a Level I trauma center, and as such is highly experienced in the treatment of traumatic hand injuries. Patients are often referred to her from emergency rooms and urgent care centers for hand lacerations and fractures.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Hand Trauma
If you experience a traumatic injury to your hand or fingers, including lacerations or cuts and suspected fractures, it is important to seek immediate care at an emergency or urgent care facility. Dr. Brown’s group, Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance, offers four urgent care locations, including a location here in Murfreesboro. Our urgent care facilities are open on weekends.
If you are experiencing any of the following after a hand injury, you should seek immediate care:
- A displaced fracture in the hand or finger (where the bones have shifted out of place)
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or fingers, as this can indicate a nerve injury
- Inability to bend or straighten the finger, as this can indicate a tendon injury.
- A laceration or cut on the hand or finger
Because the tendons and nerves in the hands and fingers are very close to the skin, even cuts that do not seem very deep could result in nerve or tendon injuries. If an injury has broken the skin, it is best to err on the side of caution and get it checked out. Failure to receive proper treatment for nerve or tendon injuries in the hands and fingers could result in permanent damage.
Common Misconceptions About Hand Trauma
There are a lot of common misconceptions about hand trauma and when to seek treatment. Dr. Brown’s goal is to educate patients so that they will seek care when it is needed.
Common myths about hand trauma include:
Myth: “If I can bend my finger, it isn’t broken or seriously injured.”
Reality: Some patients with hand trauma are still able to bend and straighten their fingers. It is best to get evaluated to make sure there is no serious damage present.
Myth: “I can’t bend my finger because of the swelling from the injury. Once the swelling goes down, I will be ok.”
Reality: Patients often think that they will be able to bend the finger once the swelling goes down. However, that is not always the case. A tendon injury may be present, which could require surgical intervention to correct. It is a good idea to schedule a followup consultation with a hand specialist after discharge from the emergency room or urgent care clinic as soon as possible to ensure that no nerve or tendon damage is present.
Myth: “If I need to have hand surgery, it can wait for a few weeks.”
Reality: If you need to have hand surgery, it is important to consult with a surgeon as soon as possible after the injury. Ideally, surgery should happen within 2 weeks of the injury. When a tendon is cut, it begins to retract or shorten over time; if a patient waits too long to have surgery, it may be too late to repair the damage.
We need our hands for so many everyday tasks, so it is important to take great care of them. If you have any doubts at all about a hand injury, it is better to be too cautious than not cautious enough.
Treating Hand Trauma
The treatment options for hand trauma will vary based on the type and severity of the injury. Dr. Brown is trained in a variety of treatment options for hand trauma.
Before recommending treatment, Dr. Brown will review any x-rays the patient brings in from urgent care, or have x-rays done on-site if the patient has not had any imaging tests. This can help to identify any fractures or foreign bodies that may be present. She will also perform a physical exam to evaluate the severity of the injury. If she suspects tendon or nerve damage is present, she may recommend exploratory surgery to evaluate the injury and repair it if needed.
If fractures are present in the hand or finger, it can sometimes be placed in a splint or cast for an average of 4 - 6 weeks. If the fracture is displaced or out of alignment, it may require surgery. Surgery typically involves a combination of plates and screws or pins to hold the fractured bones in place. Some pediatric patients may require surgery to realign a displaced (out of alignment) fracture which can be performed as an outpatient at the ambulatory surgery center.
Dr. Brown uses an outpatient facility for all surgical procedures involving hand trauma. Following surgery, most patients will need to participate in occupational hand therapy for about 8-10 weeks to regain range of motion and strength. Full recovery from hand trauma can take up to a year.
Hand Trauma Treatment in Murfreesboro, TN
If you have experienced a traumatic injury in your hand or finger, it is important to consult with an experienced hand specialist to ensure that you do not develop permanent damage. Dr. S. R. Brown is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon with additional subspecialty training in hand and upper extremity surgery at a Level I trauma center. If you have recently had a traumatic hand injury and would like a consultation with Dr. Brown, please call our office at (615) 896-6800.