Next Steps: Follow-up
You will most likely leave the hospital with some type of splint or dressing. It is very important not to disturb your splint. It keeps the fractured finger in the correct position for healing. You'll also need to keep the dressing clean, dry, and elevated in order to decrease the swelling.
Activity may aggravate your injury and cause increased pain, so it is best not to use the injured hand until your follow-up appointment with your orthopedic surgeon.
Your surgeon or doctor may want to see you about one week after your injury for another X-ray to evaluate the position of the fracture fragments. It is extremely important to keep this appointment. If the finger is not aligned correctly, it may affect the healing of your finger and cause permanent disability.
In rare cases after a surgical procedure, an infection may occur. The signs of infection are fever, increasing redness, swelling, severe pain in the finger, discharge of pus, or a foul smell from the surgery site. If these symptoms occur, go to the emergency department immediately to be evaluated.
The best prevention for finger fractures is safety. Most fingers are broken by machines or as a result of sporting injuries. Remember to always use safety equipment when doing activities that may injure your hands. Despite all efforts and precautions, injuries do occur and should be evaluated as soon possible.
After treatment and 4 to 6 weeks of healing, the prognosis for the bones coming together and healing properly is excellent.
- The most common problem encountered is joint stiffness. Immobilizing the fingers can result in the capsule and surrounding tissue forming a scar around the joint. It becomes a race to heal the bone before the joint becomes too stiff and a decrease in motion occurs.
- Many people may require physical therapy (preferably with a hand therapist) for range of motion exercises. If you are one of them, it is important for you to continue the therapy and exercises because range of motion can continue to improve for up to a year after the injury and treatment.
Media file 1: Broken finger. A severe fracture of the proximal phalanx of the small finger. This bone is broken in many small fragments and very unstable. This injury occurred in an automobile accident but also can be seen in any traumatic incident. Because it is unstable, surgery was needed. In this type of injury, the surgeon may use either pins or plates and screws for repair. The pins would stay in for about 4-6 weeks, and plates and screws would be removed only if bothersome.
Media file 2: Broken finger. This x-ray shows an oblique (diagonal) fracture through the proximal phalanx of the ring finger. Notice how the fracture tends to slip or shorten (arrow). Not only does this fracture shorten, but rotational deformities are also seen. Usually it is not stable enough for just taping to adjoining fingers, and surgery may be needed.