Finger Fracture
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Finger Fracture

(Broken Finger)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

A finger fracture is a break in any of the bones in a finger. Each finger consists of three bones called the phalanges. The thumb has only two phalanges.

Finger Fracture

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Causes

A finger fracture is caused by trauma to the finger. Trauma includes:

  • Falls
  • Blows
  • Collisions
  • Severe twists

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury.

General risk factors for fractures include:

  • Advancing age
  • Postmenopause
  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain congenital bone conditions
  • Participating in contact sports
  • Violence

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Pain, often severe
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Inability to move finger well without pain, or difficulty moving finger
  • Possible deformity at fracture site

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred; he will also examine the injured finger. The doctor may order x-rays of the finger to determine which bones are broken and the type of fracture.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. Treatment involves:

  • Putting the pieces of the bone back in place, which in some cases may require anesthesia and/or surgery
  • Keeping the pieces together while the bone heals itself

The doctor will put the bones back into place. This is usually done without surgery. However, if your fracture is severe, you may need pins, screws, or small plates to hold the bones in place. Each of these will require surgery, though pins may only require minor surgery, performed under local anesthesia.

Your finger will be put in a splint or cast to hold your finger motionless and to protect it. You will need to wear the splint or cast as long as your doctor recommends (usually 3-6 weeks). Your doctor may order x-rays during the healing time to ensure that the bones have not shifted position.

Exercises

When your doctor decides you are ready, start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. This is as important as the surgery performed. In certain situations, you may be referred to a physical therapist to assist you with these exercises.

Prevention

To help prevent finger fractures:

  • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the fingers:
    • Learn to practice correct technique in sports. Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or physical activities.
  • Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Do weight-bearing and upper body-strengthening exercises to build strong bones.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://www.aaos.org

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org/

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org/

References:

ACR Appropriateness criteria for acute hand and wrist trauma. National Guideline Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?doc_id=3262&nbr=2488 . Accessed October 13, 2005.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org . Accessed October 13, 2005.



Last reviewed January 2008 by John C. Keel, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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