ABC7’s The More in the Morning team spoke with Dr. Michael K. Kim, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, about extensor tendon injuries to the hand. Boutonniere Finger and Mallet Finger are two examples of Extensor Tendon Injuries.
What are Extensor Tendons?
Extensor tendons begin in the forearm and run along back of the hand to the thumb and fingers. These tendons allow the fingers and thumb to straighten or extend. Damage to one or more of these tendons can dramatically affect grip, dexterity, and fine motor function of the hand.
What causes Extensor Tendon injuries?
The Extensor Tendons are located on the back of the hand, just below the skin, and directly above the hand bones. This makes them prone to injury due to the lack of muscle or other protective tissues. Anything from minor cuts to major hand trauma can result in injury to these tendons. Crushing injuries, such as jamming fingers in a door frame, animal bites, sports injuries, and rheumatoid arthritis are all common causes of Extensor Tendon injuries.
How to treat Extensor Tendon Injuries?
In some cases, the physician will merely splint the finger to allow the ruptured tendon to heal together in proper alignment. The splint must be worn continuously until the tendon has healed entirely. This is common in tears caused by jamming injuries or minor lacerations of the tendon. Once healed special exercises and physical therapy are required to restore range of motion in the finger.
In laceration cases or severe rupture cases, surgical intervention can prevent permanent deformity and/or loss of function. Dr. Michael K. Kim will use sutures to repair the injured tendon. Post-operatively the digit will be immobilized in a splint to allow the tendon to heal. As with conservative management, hand therapy plays an integral role in restoring functionality and range of motion to the finger.