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Finger Flexor Tendon Injury

Definition

Tendons connect muscles to bone. The fingers have tendons that run all the way up to the finger tips. The tendons on the palm side let you curl your fingers. A flexor tendon injury is damage to these tendons. When the tendons are damaged, you can lose your ability to bend your finger(s).

Healthy Flexor Tendons of the Hand
flexor tendon
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Causes

Flexor tendon injures most commonly occur as a cut or laceration to the hand. Other causes include:

  • Damage to the tendon from:
    • A cut to fingers—palm side
    • A sports injury:
      • Stretching of tendon
      • Jersey finger—when finger catches on another player’s jersey or clothing
    • Rheumatoid arthritis

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of a flexor tendon injury include:

  • Participating in certain sports, such as:
    • Rugby
    • Football
    • Wrestling
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Inability to bend finger
  • Cut to hand or fingers
  • Loss of sensation

Diagnosis

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—a doctor who specializes in bones.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Most patients with this type of injury require surgery. Surgery may be scheduled right away or within several days. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

Depending on the type of injury, you may receive antibiotics to prevent infection.

Surgery

Tendons that are cut or ruptured require surgery. The hand surgeon may sew the tendon back together. It may be necessary to sew the tendon back to the muscle.

Rehabilitation

After surgery, you will be given a splint to protect your hand. You will be told how long to wear it. It may be up to two months. A physical therapist or occupational therapist will work with you to regain your finger strength and range of motion.

Prevention

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

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

    http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand

    http://www.assh.org

  • The Canadian Orthopaedic Association

    http://www.coa-aco.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

    http://www.canorth.org

  • Flexor tendon injuries. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00015. Updated January 2011. Accessed September 25, 2014.

  • Flexor tendon injuries. American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at: http://handcare.assh.org/Portals/1/flexor%5Finjuries.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed September 25, 2014.

  • Ruchelsman DE, Christoforou D, et al. Avulsion injuries of the flexor digitorum profundus tendon. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2011;19(3):152-162.

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