Why can’t I straighten the tip of my finger?

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What is a mallet finger?

Mallet finger is a finger deformity that occurs when the extensor tendon (the tendon that allows the finger to straighten) at the fingertip is stretched/ torn. As a result, the injured finger cannot be straightened and will bend inwards towards the palm (droop). Pain, swelling, and bruising of the finger may occur as well.

How does this injury occur?

A mallet finger occurs when the thin tendon that straightens the final joint of a finger/ thumb is injured. This usually happens when an object hits the tip of your outstretched finger with great force, forcing it to flex. This results in damage to the extensor tendon, and the tip of your finger can no longer be straightened.

How will a mallet finger affect my daily life?

After a mallet injury, you may lose the ability to fully straighten your finger, which may affect hand function.

How is a mallet finger diagnosed?

Clinical examination will establish if a mallet injury exists. X-rays are often used to assess if the injury involves a fracture or dislocation of the finger joint.

What are the treatment options available for a mallet finger?

Non-surgical

Anti-inflammatory pain medications can be used to relieve pain. In cases where surgery is deemed unnecessary, a splint can be used to keep the joint straightened to allow recovery.

Surgical

Surgery is usually necessary only if the finger joint is dislocated or if the injury results in a large fracture. During surgery, hardware like pins, wires, screws, and or plates may be used to hold the pieces of bone together. This keeps the finger straight until the tendon has completely healed, preventing your injury from worsening. Once the tendon has healed, another surgery may be conducted to remove the hardware from your body.

What is the recovery and rehabilitation process like for a mallet finger?

For patients managed without surgery, the splint should be worn 24 hours a day, for at least 6 weeks. After that, the splint is removed, and finger exercises are commenced.

For patients who undergo surgery, sutures will be removed 10 to 14 days after the procedure. Hardware inserted may be removed 6 weeks after surgery. After the removal of hardware, you will be started on a course of finger rehabilitative exercises designed to increase finger flexibility.

For an assessment of your condition, please book an appointment with Dr. Yong Ren.

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Sarah Taylor

Obstetrics & Gynaecology