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Mallet Finger

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Medical Treatment

If your finger is not broken or cut, or if only a small fracture is present, the doctor will apply a splint to the end of the finger so it remains extended. With a splint, the outermost joint on the injured finger is not bendable, but the rest of your finger is. This splint needs to be worn for at least 6 weeks, perhaps longer, to ensure that the tendon is given the best chance of healing.

The doctor will also repair any cuts or damage to the skin. And, if necessary, the tendon may be stitched to repair it.

For pain relief, apply ice to the joint.

Medications

A variety of over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers may be prescribed depending on other health conditions.

Surgery

You may need to have surgery if the injury involves a large fracture that is causing tendon damage. A hand specialist or surgeon will perform this surgery.

Next Steps

A hand specialist may monitor the progress of the injury, especially if there is a likelihood of the finger being deformed. If a cut has been repaired, you may need to go back to the doctor in 10 days to have the sutures removed.

Prevention

To prevent such injuries, take care when participating in activities, including athletic events. To prevent injuries from happening again to the same finger, leave the splint on for the entire time the doctor has recommended.

Outlook

The results of treating mallet finger injuries can vary. Many people regain full function of the finger with no long-term effects. Other people develop a long-term deformity known as a swan neck, which involves the finger joints.

For minor mallet finger injuries, studies have shown that splinting and surgery have the same results.

For More Information

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 North River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018-4262
(847) 823-7186

Or visit the AAOS OrthoInfo web site at orthoinfo.aaos.org.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on April 26, 2014
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