Broken Finger (cont.)

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When should I see a doctor for a broken finger?

  • After injury, if pain or swelling limits the motion or use of the fingers, or if the finger becomes numb, seek medical care.
  • If the injury to the finger includes a laceration, crushed tissue, or exposure of bone, the individual should go to an emergency department for immediate medical care.
  • Some fractures of the fingers may be subtle and the pain may be tolerable, so if a person suspects that they may have a finger fracture, seek medical attention.

How is a broken finger diagnosed?

X-ray is the primary tool used to diagnose a broken finger. The doctor will need an X-ray to evaluate the position of the broken finger bones.

With more complex injuries, the doctor may seek the advice of an orthopedic (bone and joint specialist) or hand surgeon (an orthopedic surgeon or plastic surgeon with post-residency, fellowship level training in hand surgery).

What is the treatment for a broken finger?

Broken fingers should be treated by medical professionals; however, a person can minimize some pain and stabilize the injury on the way to seek medical treatment.

  • To reduce swelling and bruising, apply ice to the injured finger on the way to an emergency department. Do not apply ice directly to the skin; put a towel between the ice and the finger.
  • Make a splint to immobilize the finger. A Popsicle stick or pen may be placed next to the broken finger, and then wrap something around the stick and the finger to hold it in place. Wrap loosely - if the finger is wrapped too tightly it can cause additional swelling and may cut off circulation to the injured digit.
  • Keep the injured finger elevated.
  • Remove all rings or jewelry from the affected hand before swelling occurs.

Medical treatment

The doctor will assess the stability of the broken finger. The treatment for a broken finger depends on the type of fracture, and the particular bone in the finger that is injured.

If the fracture is stable (not likely to worsen or cause complications with the movement of the finger), treatment may be as simple as buddy taping (splinting one finger to another by taping them together) for about four weeks, followed by an additional two weeks of limiting use of the finger.

If the fracture is unstable, the injured finger will need to be immobilized. A splint may be applied after reduction (re-aligning of the fractured fragments). If this does not maintain enough stability a surgical procedure may be needed.

A surgeon has many different techniques for surgical immobilization, ranging from pinning the fracture with small wires to procedures with plates and screws.

The patient will most likely leave the hospital in some type of immobilizing splint or dressing. Keep the dressing clean, dry, and elevated. It is best not to use the involved hand until a hand specialist is consulted (about one week after the injury) for another X-ray to evaluate the position of the fracture fragments. If the finger is not aligned correctly, it may affect the healing of the finger and leave a permanent disability.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/21/2013

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