Fractures of the base of the first metacarpal: current treatment options

A D Soyer
Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 1999, 7 (6): 403-12
Fractures of the thumb metacarpal occur most frequently at the base. These fractures can be subdivided into intra-articular and extra-articular types. Intra-articular fractures present treatment challenges because they have a tendency to displace due to deforming forces acting at the base of the thumb. An understanding of the anatomy, biomechanics, and fracture pattern will aid in deciding on the best treatment option for each fracture type. Surgical treatment is recommended for unstable fractures. Anatomic restoration of the articular surface in Bennett and Rolando fractures is not essential to obtain a good functional result. However, reduction should be 1 mm or less to reduce the risk of radiographic arthritis. Malunion of these fractures may result in long-term disability. Closed reduction and percutaneous Kirschner-wire fixation is generally the appropriate treatment for a Bennett fracture. Rolando fractures can be treated with either open reduction and internal fixation or external fixation, depending on the size of the fracture fragments. In the case of severely comminuted intra-articular fractures, articular impaction has been implicated as one of the causes of posttraumatic arthritis. It is difficult to restore the articular surface in these injuries. Therefore, external fixation can be considered when the fracture fragments are small and there is significant soft-tissue injury.

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