Carpal bones are the bones of the wrist, a joint which is frequently injured. There are 8 carpal bones arranged in two rows and held together by multiple short ligaments. Falling on an outstretched arm or direct trauma to the wrist as in a high-speed accident can fracture one or more carpal bones causing pain, swelling, weakness and decreased range of motion. The carpal bone most frequently involved in wrist fractures is the scaphoid bone (located at the base of the thumb). Carpal fractures can lead to permanent disability if left untreated.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history, and perform a thorough physical examination to identify the area of pain, range of motion and any injuries to nerves and blood vessels. X-rays are ordered to view the fracture and displacement of bone. A CT, MRI or bone scan may be necessary if the results are not clear.
Your doctor will first immobilize your wrist in a cast or splint and prescribe medication to control your pain. Fractures that are mildly dislocated are treated by externally reducing the fracture and stabilizing the wrist in a cast. Significantly dislocated fractures may require surgery to repair the bones and ligaments, and stabilize them in place with screws and plates.