Open Hand Fracture (Adult)

You have a fracture, or broken bone, in your hand. An open fracture means that the bone goes through the skin. Or it may mean there is a wound in the skin that goes as deep as the fractured bone. Because of this, there is a risk of infection to the skin or bone. The fractured bone may be a small crack or chip. Or it may be a major break with the broken parts pushed out of position.

A hand fracture is often treated with a splint or cast. It usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Severe injuries may require surgery. Open fractures are at risk of becoming infected. You will be given an antibiotic to lower the risk of infection.

Home care

  • Keep your arm raised at elbow level as much as possible when sitting or standing. Sleep with your arm on your chest or on a pillow at your side. This is very important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 24 to 48 hours. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on your skin. You can place the ice pack inside the sling and directly over the splint or cast. As the ice melts, be careful that the cast or splint doesn’t get wet. Continue with ice packs as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • Keep the cast or splint completely dry at all times. Bathe with your cast or splint out of the water, protected with 2 large plastic bags. Place 1 bag outside of the other. Tape each bag with duct tape at the top end or use rubber bands. If a fiberglass cast or splint gets wet, dry it with a hair dryer on a cool setting.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, ever had a stomach ulcer, gastrointestinal bleeding, or take a blood thinner, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • Take any antibiotics prescribed as directed and until finished.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider within 1 week, or as advised. This is to be sure the bone is healing correctly. If you were given a splint, it may be changed to a cast at your follow-up visit.

If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint stays wet for more than 24 hours

  • Increased tightness or pain develops under the cast or splint

  • Your fingers become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • The wound has redness, warmth, swelling, or drainage

  • The cast or splint has a bad smell

  • Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Chills

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