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HealthInfo Canterbury

Surgery for a broken hand

If you need surgery for broken hand bones, it will be done by either an orthopaedic (bone) surgeon or a plastic surgeon.

The precise surgery you have will depend on what type of break you have. Your surgeon will talk with you about the details of your surgery, the risks, benefits, and expected recovery.

Whatever surgery you have, it will involve inserting some metal (a plate, screws, or possibly wires) to align your bone properly and support it while it heals.

Surgery usually involves spending one night in hospital, and your hand will be in a splint or cast for up to six weeks.

Recovery after surgery

You will need at least two weeks off work after surgery. Whether you need longer depends on which hand is affected – you will need longer if the break is in the hand you use most (your dominant hand). It will also depend on what your job involves, and whether there are any light duties you can do. You won't be able to carry or lift anything for about two months.

You will also have a course of physiotherapy to strengthen your hand and get it moving again.

As you recover you will have regular appointments with your surgeon, and some X-rays, to make sure your hand bone is healing well. When you have the X-rays will depend on how bad your break is and how quickly your bone heals.

If wires have been put into your broken hand bone they may be buried under your skin, or they may be poking out from the end of your knuckle. They will probably have to be removed.

If they are poking out from your knuckle they will be removed at a clinic appointment. This is not usually painful (a bit like having a blood test), but it's a good idea to take some pain relief before you come to this appointment. If they are under you skin you may need another operation to remove them.

Things you can do yourself

While you are recovering you should avoid lifting or carrying anything on your injured side. You should also avoid any sport or other activity that could make your injury worse. Your surgeon will let you know when it's safe to do these things again.

If wires are poking out from your knuckle it's important to protect them so they don't get caught on clothing or are accidentally pulled out. If this happens it can be painful. You may also need more surgery to put them back in, which can affect how well you heal and how well your hand works in the future.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by orthopaedic surgeon, Canterbury DHB. March 2017.

Page reference: 347857

Review key: HIWAH-240323