Finger Fracture Fixation
This procedure uses pins, screws, or metal plates to repair broken bones in the fingers. The actual fixation method will depend on the location and pattern of the break.
Despite a fractured finger seeming like a minor injury, it can cause serious functional problems for the entire hand if left untreated. While the bones in the hand are small, they must line up precisely or the entire structure of the hand may fall out of alignment. There are 14 bones in total in the fingers (phalanges) of each hand, all of which are susceptible to fracture under the right conditions. A fractured finger often causes pain, swelling, tenderness and bruising. Moving the injured finger may be difficult, and it may look deformed.
Although these symptoms usually develop minutes after the finger is fractured, they can vary from mild to severe depending on the extent of the injury. Proper medical treatment is important for alleviating painful symptoms, and for making sure the finger and hand do not sustain permanent damage. Finger fracture fixation may be surgical or nonsurgical, depending on the misalignment of the broken bone.
Symptoms of a Finger Fracture
The most frequently injured parts of the hand are the fingers. A broken finger can be caused by, among other things, extending a hand to break a fall, slamming it in a door, jamming it while catching a ball and boxing. A carelessness moment while working with certain tools may also lead to a fractured finger.
Signs of a broken finger can include the following:
- Difficulty moving the finger
- Deformed-looking finger
Swelling may also affect the fingers adjacent to the one that is broken.
Reasons for Finger Fracture Fixation
Finger fractures are diagnosed following a physical examination of the hands and fingers. During this examination, the doctor will evaluate how well the fingers line up when the hand is extended, and determine if the injured finger looks too short. X-rays may be taken of both hands, to compare the injured finger to the same, uninjured finger on the other hand. After the finger fracture has been identified, the doctor can determine what type of fixation will best address it.
Nonsurgical Finger Fracture Fixation
Most broken fingers can be successfully treated without surgery. Nonsurgical finger fracture fixation can be achieved with the patient wearing a splint or a cast to hold the finger straight and in its proper position, protecting it from further injury as it heals. In some cases, the uninjured fingers next to the fractured finger may also be splinted to provide additional support. Splints or casts usually need to be worn for about 3 or 4 weeks, or until the fracture has fully healed.
Surgical Finger Fracture Fixation
For finger fractures that cause severe misalignment, surgery may be required. Surgical finger fracture fixation is performed under local anesthesia to minimize discomfort. During surgery, broken bones are realigned using pins, screws or wires to secure them in the correct position. A cast or splint is then used to ensure that the repositioned bones of the finger heal correctly. The cast or splint is typically worn for 4 to 6 weeks. The pins, screws or wires may be removed once the finger has healed, or may be left in place to ensure that the bones do not shift over time.
Recovery from Finger Fracture Fixation
After healing is complete, physical therapy is usually prescribed. Physical therapy exercises may include squeezing a ball to improve finger mobility and extension exercises to address finger strength and mobility. Patients will usually be taught to grip and support items by placing the least amount of stress on the finger joints. Most patients require two to three months of physical therapy, and full recovery may take up to four months.