What is mallet finger?
Mallet finger is caused by damage to the thin tendon (extensor tendon) at the end of the finger that enables it to fully straighten. When the extensor tendon is stretched or broken as a result of injury or sudden force to the end of the finger, it can result in a drooping fingertip that is said to resemble the shape of a mallet.
In some cases, the injury can pull away some of the bone at the same time. This is known as an avulsion injury. After impact, the finger is usually very bruised and painful, with a noticeable disfigurement. It will only straighten if helped to do so, but cannot remain straight independently.
How is it treated?
Mallet finger is usually confirmed with an X-Ray in case any other damage was sustained with the injury. Most mallet finger injuries can be treated non-surgically. Immobilisation is key to making a good recovery so that the finger is allowed time to fully heal.
A splint is used to hold the fingertip straight for the first 8 weeks as any kind of flexing is detrimental to the healing process. In more complex cases, a pin may be used to hold the joint in position while it heals. If the bone has broken through the skin or the tendon has been severed, your doctor may recommend urgent surgical treatment to restore alignment and repair the tendon.
How long does it last?
With early treatment, Mallet finger can be resolved relatively quickly. If the tendon is only stretched, it should heal in 4-6 weeks with the help of a splint. If the tendon is torn or pulled away from the bone, it will take slightly longer to heal.
The splint will be required full time for 6-8 weeks, and a further 3-4 weeks afterwards at night. Mallet finger is sometimes confused with a sprain and so treatment is often delayed. This can lead to joint stiffness and possible deformity.
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