Ask a Doctor: Mallet Finger

Ask a Doctor: Mallet Finger

Dr. Ben Jacobs answers your questions about Mallet Finger:

My finger droops even when I try to straighten the tip. What is going on?

A mallet finger is a very common condition and can happen to any of the fingers.  It occurs when the tendon that straightens your finger pulls away from the bone at the end of the finger. Sometimes the tendon takes a small piece of bone with it (mallet fracture) and other times not.  It might or might not hurt. Mallet fingers need treatment if you want to be able to straighten the finger again.

When should I seek treatment for my injury?

In the case of mallet finger, a trip to the emergency room isn’t usually needed unless the skin on the finger is severely injured.  However, you should see your doctor or hand surgeon as soon as you can — ideally within a few days or weeks — to begin treatment.  Success with treatment sometimes is possible if treatment starts a few months after the injury.

What should I expect from my doctor?

During your visit, you’ll be asked questions about how and when the injury occurred.  Your hand surgeon might order an x-ray of the finger or hand.  Treatment usually involves a special kind of splint. Rarely, surgery might be suggested.

How long is this going to take?

Typical treatment can last for 6-8 weeks or longer.  You might need more than one round of treatment. Even if you begin treatment with a splint, surgery might be needed if your finger is not responding appropriately.  It is important to complete your treatment for this injury.

What happens if I don’t seek treatment?

Mallet finger treatment is typically successful particularly if treatment is started early.  Without treatment, you will not be able to straighten the finger; sometimes further problems develop that make the finger even harder to use.  It is important to seek treatment for this condition even if there has been a delay.

Dr. Jacobs is an orthopaedic surgeon at Rebound Orthopedics and Neurosurgery in Vancouver, Washington, and a member of theAmerican Society for Surgery of the Hand. He sub-specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery and treats disorders involving bones, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels of the entire upper extremity in addition to general orthopedics. He is trained in fracture management, reconstruction, microvascular, and nerve surgery of the hand, arm, elbow, and shoulder.

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