Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Imaging scans are crucial to the diagnosis of a broken wrist or broken hand.

X-rays

Using low levels of radiation, X-rays are a good tool to visualize bone. But X-rays sometimes have problems revealing fractures where the bone is merely cracked. X-rays are painless and take only a few minutes to complete.

Computerized tomography (CT)

CT scans can often uncover wrist or hand fractures that X-rays might miss. Injuries to soft tissues and blood vessels also are easier to see on CT scans. This technology takes X-rays from a variety of angles and combines them to depict cross-sectional slices of your body's internal structures. The test is painless and usually takes less than 20 minutes.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

MRI uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissues. It is much more sensitive than X-rays and can identify very small fractures and ligament injuries. The procedure is painless, but some people feel claustrophobic in the narrow tunnel within the MRI machine.

Bone scan

This technique is good for identifying stress fractures, where a bone is cracked due to repetitive trauma. During a bone scan, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into your bloodstream. It collects in the bones, particularly in places where a bone is healing, and is detected by a scanner.

Jul. 07, 2011