Wrist sprain can be diagnosed clinically by a doctor by reviewing your symptoms and examining the wrist. Tests are usually done to confirm the severity of injury or if the fracture is suspected.
Medical history and examination: The doctor will ask you to describe how you injured your wrist (such as “did you fall or twist the wrist?”). The doctor will ask specific questions regarding fractures and sprain such as if there is any history of previous wrist, hand or forearm injury or fracture. During examination, the doctor will examine the swelling, pain on movement of the wrist, range of movement at the joint and any deformity of the joint.
Lab tests: If the examination of your wrist suggests that you have a severe wrist sprain or a fractured bone, the doctor may order tests such as wrist X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
Wrist X-rays: It will not show an injury to the ligament or other soft tissues, but if the bone is broken, it will be seen on the X-ray. If you experience severe pain and swelling, it may help to rule out a fracture of the bones at the wrist joint.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan: These are non-invasive and painless tests that take a series of detailed pictures of different parts of the body that are being examined. A radiologist can see the images and diagnose if there is an abnormality in the part that has been examined. These tests may be done if no fracture is seen on an X-ray, but you have severe pain and swelling or if the injury fails to heal in a few days. The ligament is visualised well on CT scan and MRI scan. The tests can help the doctor to determine the severity of the sprain i.e. whether or not the ligaments have been torn and their severity.
Other tests: Some other tests that may be done include arthrogram or arthroscopy. In an arthrogram, a dye is injected into the joint, which makes the joint and ligaments show up more clearly and show if the ligaments have been torn thereby, pinpointing the area that needs attention. Arthroscopy helps to inspect the wrist ligaments directly for signs of damage. In this test, a special instrument with a small fiberoptic camera is passed into the joint to look inside it.