Finger Flexor Tendon Injury
En Español (Spanish Version)

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

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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.




Resources:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

American Society for Surgery of the Hand

Canadian Resources:
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

References:
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_injuries.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.

Last Reviewed August 2014



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