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Fingers General Treatments

Mallet Finger: Definitions, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Mallet finger is common in many individuals, especially because issues that occur regularly can lead to it. Slamming a finger into a door, injuring it with a baseball, falling, or any number of mishaps can all lead to this finger deformity.

What is Mallet Finger?

A mallet finger is a deformity of the finger caused when the tendon that straightens your finger (the extensor tendon) is damaged.

Such injuries are very common among athletes. When a ball or other object strikes the tip of the finger or thumb and forcibly bends it, the force tears the tendon that straightens out the finger. It may even pull away a piece of bone along with the tendon. As a result, the tip of the finger or thumb is no longer able to straighten.  In fact, mallet finger is also known as baseball finger for this reason.

In a mallet finger, the fingertip droops. If the injury is recent, the finger may be painful, swollen, and bruised. These effects will be especially pronounced if there is an associated fracture. These symptoms may decrease over time, but mild discomfort in the finger and tendons may persist.

Occasionally, blood collects beneath the nail, and the nail can even become detached from beneath the skin fold at the base of the nail.

Mallet Finger Treatment

The majority of mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery. Ice should be applied immediately, and the hand should be elevated with the fingers toward the ceiling. Medical attention should be sought within a week after injury, or the finger could heal improperly, leading to more permanent damage. It is especially important to seek immediate attention if there is blood beneath the nail or if the nail is detached. This may be a sign of a nail bed laceration or an open fracture.

Mallet fingers can also be treated with splints or casts that keep the fingertip straight until the tendon heals. This usually lasts about eight weeks. The good news is that the finger usually regains acceptable function and appearance with this treatment, although some inability to fully extend the finger may continue.  Once the finger has healed, a hand surgeon or hand therapist will teach you exercises to regain motion in the fingertip.

Seeing a hand doctor for children with mallet finger is especially crucial. Because their fingers are still growing, a doctor can aim to ensure that the finger or fingers do not become stunted or deformed.

Surgery may be required to treat mallet finger if:

  • The condition is severe
  • There are large bone fragments
  • Joints are misaligned.
  • Using a split is not ideal or possible
  • Other treatments are not successful.

Surgical treatments may include tightening the tendon, using tendon grafts, or fusing the joint straight. Pins, wires, or small screws may be used to aid healing.

If you have a new finger injury or have been coping with the symptoms of mallet finger for years, make an appointment to see our hand surgeon in West Bloomfield, Howell, Warren, or Macomb. Dr. Avery Arora can help determine the right treatment options for you.

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Fingers General

Understanding Mallet Finger and Treatment Options

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There are tendons located in your hand and fingers that are designed to straighten those digits. These tendons, called extensors, connect to muscles on each end so that you can have full control of your hands. If the extensor tendon becomes damaged, then it cannot properly do its job and may even be torn away from the bone and muscle. If this happens, you could develop mallet finger, which is often also referred to as baseball finger.

The common manner in which this injury occurs is if the finger is straightening and then forcibly hit by an object such as a ball, a hammer, or something similar.

The main symptom of mallet finger is a dropping fingertip that cannot straighten out. There could be other symptoms associated with the injury, including pain, swelling, and bruising. If the finger bone was fractured at the same time, more swelling and pain will be evident.

Diagnosing the Condition

Generally, the doctor will look at the finger first and then order x-rays. When the tendon was damaged, it may have forced a fracture and pulled a piece of the finger bone loose. It will be important to diagnose this properly so that the bone can be repaired.

Treatment of Mallet Finger

There are essentially two paths for treatment of this condition: surgical and nonsurgical. If the damage was only partial and no bones were broken, then the tendon may heal on its own. To help this happen, you will need to wear a splint for at least eight weeks. This will allow the tendon time to heal without experiencing any stress.

In many cases, the finger will go back to normal after it has been given healing time. However, some patients find that they are never able to fully extend their finger after such an injury. To help avoid this, your doctor or surgeon will go over therapy exercises you can do to regain full use of your finger and fingertip.

If the tendon is completely torn, or if bone is broken, then surgery will be needed in order to repair the injury. Pins and wires may be used to repair the bone fragments and get everything aligned back in place. Surgery on the tendon may be used to stitch it together. Additionally, the tissues may need to be fused in order to regain use of the finger. Your surgeon will go over the options you have when you are diagnosed with mallet finger.

Mallet finger is often called baseball finger simply because it is a common injury associated with this sport. If a player attempts to catch a ball and the ball hits the back of outstretched fingers, then this could cause the injury. However, it is not limited to the diamond. There are numerous different ways someone could injure the extensor tendons in their hand. If you suffered an injury and you have trouble extending your finger or it droops, then it is important that you visit a doctor as soon as possible. In fact, to avoid further complications, it is best to see a doctor within a week of the injury.

Resources:

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00018

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Dr. Aroras office from my first call to schedule my appointment was friendly. Walking in the first day, I felt like I was in a nice atmosphere. Dr. Arora was EXCELLENT in taking great care of my hand injury. He was gentle and very understanding to the concerns I had about my hand. His expertise was admirable and I would recommend anyone with an injury to their hand to his office to be under his care. Because of him, I have healed faster than expected and will make an 100% recovery! Thank you Dr.

Jackie S.

I first thought I was going to have to have painful injections or surgery, but Dr. Arora suggested physical therapy may do the trick. I was doubtful, but I agreed to do it. Now, my pain is gone, and with the help of an ergonomic keyboard at work to keep my hands in the correct position, I am virtually pain free. The therapy strengthened my wrists and shoulders, and built more flexibility into my wrists.

Jerry T.

My experience with this doctor was positive from the outset. Dr. Arora was kind and spent a great deal of time with me. Staff was friendly. The office was nice and bright.

Ariel G.

Very friendly and helpful Great staff!!! Doctor Arora was very professional and did great work. I was very happy with everything!

L B.