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Finger Extensor Tendon Injury

(Mallet Finger; Boutonniere Deformity)

Definition

Tendons are responsible for connecting muscles to bone. The extensor tendons are located on the back of the hand and fingers. They let you open your hand and straighten your fingers. An extensor tendon injury is a cut or tear to one of these tendons. When they are damaged, you can lose the ability to extend your hand and/or finger(s). Two common extensor injuries are:

  • Mallet finger—the tendon is affected at the last joint on the finger, usually from a jammed finger
  • Boutonniere deformity—the tendon is affected at the middle joint, usually caused by an arthritis-like condition

Extensor Tendons of the Hand

extensor tendon
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

Extensor tendon injuries may be caused by:

  • A cut or laceration to back of hand or fingers
  • Broken bones
  • A crush injury
  • An open wound or cut
  • Jamming a finger
  • Arthritis
  • Nerve compression

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your chance of an extensor tendon injury include:

  • Participating in certain sports, such as:
    • Basketball
    • Football
  • Arthritis

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms may include:

  • Inability to open hand or fingers
  • Pain
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Cut to back of the hand or fingers
  • Jammed finger

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. During the exam, you will be asked to bend and straighten your fingers. Your doctor will also check your fingers for sensation, blood flow, and strength. You may be referred to a hand surgeon or an orthopedist—doctor who specializes in bones.

Images may be taken of your hand. This can be done with x-rays.

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Depending on the type of injury, you may require surgery. Surgery may be scheduled right away or within several days.

Treatment options include the following:

Medications

Depending on the type of injury, antibiotics may be given to prevent infection.

Surgery

Tendons that are cut or ruptured require surgery. The hand surgeon may sew the tendon back together. A pin may need to be inserted through the bone to form a type of inside splint.

A splint may be worn after surgery to protect the hand. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can help regain finger strength and range of motion.

Splinting    TOP

Some extensor tendon injuries are treated with a hand splint. Splints are worn until healing has occurred. This is usually several weeks.

Prevention    TOP

Extensor tendon injuries are typically caused by accidental injuries. There are no known prevention guidelines for this injury.

RESOURCES:

American Society for Surgery of the Hand
http://www.assh.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://whenithurtstomove.org

References:

Extensor tendon injuries. American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 24, 2017.
Leggit JC, Meko CJ. Acute Finger Injuries: Part I. Tendons and Ligaments. Am Fam Physician. 2006 Mar 1;73(5):810-816. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 25, 2014.
To P, Watson JT. Boutonniere deformity. J Hand Surg Am. 2011;36(1):139-142.
Zhang X, Yang L, et al. Treatment of bony boutonniere deformity with a loop wire. J Hand Surg Am. 2011;36(6):1080-1085.
Last reviewed August 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 9/25/2014

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