Clinical Review ABC of emergency radiology


BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 05 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1073
  1. Otto Chan,
  2. Tudor Hughes


    The hand is exposed and at risk of injury. It is therefore not surprising that hand injuries are the commonest skeletal injuries, and they account for 10-20% of attendances at accident and emergency departments. Fractures of the phalanges are more common than fractures of the metacarpals. Fractures of the distal phalanx account for half of all phalangeal fractures. Metacarpal injuries occur most commonly in the thumb and little finger.

    Dorsal (left) and lateral (right) view of left index finger

    Most injuries of the hands are easy to detect and correlate well with clinical findings. Identification of injuries is essential because early detection and appropriate management usually leads to recovery of normal function. Conversely, delay in diagnosis of what seems to be a minor abnormality can lead to a severe disability. Surgery is rarely necessary and only indicated for specific injuries. Clinical examination determines which radiographic views should be obtained.

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    Anteroposterior (left) and lateral (middle left) view of thumb. Anteroposterior (middle right) and lateral (right) view of finger

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    Each finger consists of one metacarpal and three phalanges, and the thumb consists of one metacarpal and two phalanges. Each bone has a head, a shaft, and a base. Strong ulnar and radial collateral ligaments prevent sideways movement of the joints. The joint capsule of the interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints is thickened on the palmar (volar) aspect and forms a dense fibrous structure (volar plate). This attaches to the base of the phalanx. Each finger has two flexor tendons and one extensor tendon. Sesamoid bones may be found on the palmar aspect …

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