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Torn Wrist Ligament

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What is a Torn Wrist Ligament

If you’ve had a fall or injured yourself in some way that involved an outstretched hand, persisting or acute main may indicate a torn wrist ligament. There are three types of wrist ligament sprains, depending on their level of severity. Grade 1 indicates that wrist ligaments are stretched, but not torn. Grade 2 indicates that wrist ligaments are partially torn. The worst, Grade 3, indicates that wrist ligaments are completely torn and will require medical or surgical care to repair.

 

Causes

A torn wrist ligament is a more severe type of wrist sprain, which occurs when the wrist ligaments are stretched beyond their range of motion to the point where they tear. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bones.

 

Sign & Symptoms

A torn ligament in the wrist is sometimes mistaken as a sprain. You might feel pain in the wrist at the time of the injury, and pain while moving the wrist after the injury. Even with rest, the pain may not decrease significantly, and there may be swelling, bruising, or a feeling of popping or tearing in your wrist.

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Feeling of popping/tearing in the wrist

 

Diagnosis & Treatment

People often tear ligaments and assume it is just a sprain, which is why it’s best to seek medical attention for any injury that you believe to be a sprain.

Diagnosing a torn ligament starts with understanding the patient’s medical history involving all previous wrist issues. A physical examination will show your doctor your current motion abilities, pain level, and location of any pain.  X-rays will be the main source of truth to determine whether a ligament is injured.

If X-rays are inconclusive, an arthrogram of the wrist may be utilized. Dye is injected into one of the small joints of the wrist and special X-rays are taken to look for leaking dye out of the joint.

It is becoming more common for doctors to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create pictures that look like slices of the wrist joint, including soft tissues like ligaments.

A less common option is an arthroscopy of the wrist joint, which is a miniature TV camera inserted into the wrist joint. The arthroscope may even be used to help repair the ligaments during this exploratory mission.

Grade 3 (fully torn) wrist ligaments usually require surgical treatment to reconnect the torn ligament with the bone. After surgery, most patients go through a period of rehabilitation and physical therapy to strengthen the wrist and restore motion.

There are various surgical treatments, depending on the issue: percutaneous pinning and repair of the ligaments (inserting metal pins), ligament reconstruction (using a tendon graft to replace torn ligaments plus pins, common when surgery is 6+ months post-injury), or fusion (bones are fused by removing cartilage surface between bones, used most for very old injuries, in cases presenting with arthritis).

 

Recovery

After surgery, your hand and wrist will be bandaged with a bulky dressing and will be supported by a splint. Physical or occupational therapy may be recommended for up to three months. Initial sessions will work on reducing pain and swelling, and will develop into strengthening and stabilizing the muscles around the wrist joint, as well as improving fine motor control and dexterity of your hand.

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