Clinical fracture of the carpal scaphoid--an illusionary diagnosis

J Hand Surg Br. 1985 Oct;10(3):375-6.


The management of patients with clinical evidence of a fracture of the carpal scaphoid bone but without radiological evidence of a fracture is based on dogma emphasizing the need to immobilize the wrist in all cases. Because of the apparently high proportion of patients who spend up to six weeks in a plaster cast and in whom no fracture is ever demonstrated radiologically, a study was undertaken to determine the fate of those wrist injuries diagnosed as clinical fractures of the scaphoid. All patients who presented with clinical or radiological evidence of fractures of the scaphoid over a one year period were reviewed. Of the 108 patients in whom the diagnosis of clinical fracture of the scaphoid was made at the time of presentation none was proved radiologically to have a fracture of the scaphoid subsequently after a period of mobilization. These patients spent an average time of 21.9 days in a plaster cast which represents a significant loss of productivity to the community and inconvenience to the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carpal Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Carpal Bones / injuries*
  • Carpal Bones / surgery
  • Child
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fractures, Bone / economics
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography