J Wrist Surg 2021; 10(05): 368-376
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1721435
Special Review: Natural History of Scaphoid Nonunion

Revisiting the Natural History of Chronic Scaphoid Nonunions: A Retrospective Study of 20 Cases

1   Department of Orthopedics, Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery, Olympia Hospital & Research Centre, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India
› Author Affiliations
Funding None.


Background The natural history of scaphoid nonunion is the development of degenerative arthritis. A lot of information is still unclear about this progression. The purpose of this study is to analyze patients with scaphoid nonunions who had not received any kind of treatment and to assess the functional outcome.

Materials and Methods This is a retrospective study that analyzed the patients with chronic scaphoid nonunions between 2009 and 2019. None of the patients received any treatment. The age at the time of injury, examination, pattern of fracture, types of scaphoid nonunion, symptoms, and duration of nonunion were noted. Diagnosis was confirmed by radiographs, computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Scapholunate and radiolunate angles were recorded. Pain score, modified mayo wrist score, grip strength, range of movement, and the functional outcome of these scaphoid nonunions were analyzed. A statistical correlation between the scaphoid nonunion presentations and the functional outcome was assessed.

Results The mean age of the patients was 62 years (range: 35–82 years.). There were 17 male and 3 female patients. There were 9 waist and 11 proximal pole scaphoid nonunions. The mean duration of scaphoid nonunion was 34 years (range: 10–62 years). None of the patients had avascular necrosis (AVN) of the proximal scaphoid. The age at examination, gender, side of injury, fracture pattern (waist/proximal pole), fracture displacement ≤ 1 mm or > 1 mm, nonunion duration, and radiographic arthritic parameters had no significant impact on the functional outcome.

Conclusions Untreated chronic scaphoid nonunion leads to the development of degenerative arthritis over a period of years, which is still unpredictable. Most of the patients become aware of the nonunion following a precedent injury or other reasons. Most of the patients have fair/good functional outcome despite reduced range of movements and grip strength. Many do not favor surgical intervention in the course of nonunion. Chronic nonunions open a lot of unanswered questions.

Clinical Relevance There have been numerous studies on the treatment aspects of scaphoid nonunion, with little knowledge about certain people with nonunion who did not have any kind of treatment. The demographics, clinical findings, and radiological parameters do confirm the progression of these nonunion to arthritis, but most of them had fair-to-good outcome throughout their life. It opens our thinking about the real need of treatment in such nonunions and raises numerous questions about the disease.

Level of Evidence This is a Level IV study.

Ethical Approval

Ethical Committee of the hospital approved the study (No 12/2020).

Publication History

Received: 28 August 2020

Accepted: 28 October 2020

Article published online:
03 January 2021

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