Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The doctor will ask what happened. Sometimes the way you fell (the
mechanism of injury) tells what type of injuries to look for. After taking a
history, the doctor will examine the entire arm from the shoulder to the
fingers. This is done to make sure there are no other injured areas. The doctor
will also check to see how well the blood is flowing into the fingers and make
sure there is no numbness in your hand.
When examining around the wrist, the doctor will gently push on the wrist
to determine where there is tenderness. A special area that will be examined is
called the anatomical snuffbox. This is the area that is indented when you stick
your thumb up as if to hitchhike. Tenderness there is of special importance
because the bone under that spot (the scaphoid) is the most common carpal bone
that is fractured and often does not look fractured on the initial x-rays.
Anatomical snuffbox (see arrow): Under this area lies the scaphoid bone that is commonly broken, but the break may not show up on the initial x-rays. Photo courtesy of Edmond A. Hooker, MD, FAAEM
X-rays of the wrist or forearm or both may be taken.