Surgical Outcome of Scaphoid Nonunions in Heavy Manual Workers


The management of scaphoid nonunion in heavy manual workers is challenging. Symptoms appear earlier and manual labor-related stress at the operated nonunion site may worsen the postoperative outcome. This study involved 16 heavy manual workers with scaphoid nonunion (11 cases involving the dominant hand) treated by internal fixation and autologous bone grafting. The nonunion was in 12 patients in the waist, in 3 patients in the proximal, and in 1 patient in the distal pole of the scaphoid. Clinical and radiographic evaluation of union was done according to the criteria of Bynum et al. and Fernandez and Eggli. Pain, wrist motion, and grip strength were evaluated and compared to the contralateral side. At a mean follow-up of 24 months (range, 10 months to 6 years), the mean range of motion and the grip strength compared to the contralateral hand were 95% and 91%, respectively. Overall hand function was excellent in 13 patients, good in 2 patients, and fair in 1 patient. All except one patient were pain free and returned to their work without or with minimal complaints at an average of 3.4 months (range, 2–6 months), postoperatively. In 15 patients, scaphoid nonunions healed at a mean time of 64 days. One patient had a reoperation, and union was observed at 90 days after the second operation. In all patients, the radiolunate angle was restored to normal. One patient developed complex regional pain syndrome that resolved completely after 2 months with adequate intensive physical therapy. Clinical symptoms of scaphoid nonunions are more severe and appear earlier in heavy manual workers; in this group of patients, surgical treatment is necessary. The double-threaded screw provides adequate stabilization for union. Autologous cancellous bone graft, because of its plasticity and malleability to exactly fill the scaphoid defect, is recommended. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 19(4):209–213, 2010)

Michail Beltsios, MD, Olga D. Savvidou, MD, John Kovanis, MD, Panayiotis
Alexandropoulos, MD, Evanthia A. Mitsiokapa, MD, Andreas F. Mavrogenis, MD,
and Panayiotis J. Papagelopoulos, MD, DSc