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Finger Fracture

(Broken Finger)

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

This condition is more common in older adults.
Factors that may increase your risk of a finger fracture include:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain congenital bone conditions
  • Participation in contact sports
  • Violence

Symptoms

A finger fracture may cause:
  • Pain, often severe
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Inability to move the finger without pain or difficulty
  • Possible deformity at the fracture site

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms, your physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured finger will be examined.
Images will be taken of your finger to determine which bones are broken and the type of fracture. This can be done with x-rays.

Treatment

Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your finger, such as immobility or misalignment. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:

Initial Care

Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your finger in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include taping your injured finger to the healthy fingers next to it (buddy taping), or a splint or cast.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. These bones will need to be put back into their proper place. This may be done:
  • Without surgery—you will have anesthesia to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, or a wire may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.

Medication

The following medications may be advised:
  • Over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • Prescription pain medication
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Ask your doctor which medications are safe for your child.

Rehabilitation

As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of finger fractures, take these steps:
  • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
  • Clean spills and slippery areas right away.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
  • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub.
  • Put in handrails on both sides of stairways.
  • Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls.
  • Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.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

Finger fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00257. Updated December 2013. Accessed September 25, 2014.

Newberg A, Dalinka MK, et al. Acute hand and wrist trauma. American College of Radiology. ACR Appropriateness Criteria. Radiology. 2000;215:Suppl:375-8. Updated 2008.

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