What Is a Lunate Fracture?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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A lunate fracture occurs when a crack exists anywhere on the lunate bone, which is located in the human wrist. This type of injury can occur as the result of a direct trauma — car accidents are common causes of a lunate fracture — or a fall, as many people are inclined to brace themselves with the hands during a fall. A fracture of this bone can be painful and slow to heal, and delayed diagnosis and treatment may lead to a condition known as osteonecrosis, which is essentially the death of bone tissue that leads to weakening or failing of the bone itself.

The lunate bone is one of a series of small bones in the wrist, and it is located near the center of that joint between the forearm and hand. When an impact or pressure is placed upon the bone, a fracture or crack can occur. The severity of this fracture can vary significantly, and the pain and swelling associated with the injury can also vary according to the severity. An x-ray is usually ordered to discover if a lunate fracture has occurred, and in some cases an MRI may be used as well.


Treatment of a lunate fracture will vary. If the bone is not displaced or moved out of position, a cast may be placed on the wrist and hand to immobilize it for several weeks or even months, thereby allowing the fracture to heal on its own. More severe lunate fracture injuries may require a surgery to address the displaced bone. Screws may be used to secure the bone back together, which can prolong the healing time of the injury as well as the amount of pain the injured person will feel. Painkilling medications and/or anti-inflammatory medications are likely to be prescribed after the surgery to help manage pain and swelling.

If the lunate fracture goes undiagnosed, a condition known as osteonecrosis can occur. A limited flow of blood to the injured bone can lead to cell death within that bone, and the bone will in turn weaken significantly. This can essentially lead to the death of the bone, which means another surgery will be necessary to either totally remove the injured bone or resurface it to promote new cell growth. Long term damage can be painful, and it can limit mobility in the wrist as well as overall strength and health of that crucial joint. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent osteonecrosis.


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