The phalanges, also known as the finger bones, are the bones located in the hands and feet that form the structure of the fingers and toes. Phalanx fractures, also known as finger fractures, are a common injury that occur as a result of a direct blow or forceful twisting motion to the finger. This type of fracture can cause significant pain and impair the ability to use the affected finger, making prompt and proper treatment crucial for a successful outcome.
A common bone break is a fractured finger. It happens as a result of broken or weak bones. Finger fractures are identified through X-rays by your healthcare professional. Splints or surgery are frequently used as treatments for more serious fractures. After receiving medical care and recovery time, broken fingers usually recover quickly.
What is a broken finger?
When one or more of your finger’s bones break, you have a broken finger. Bone fracture is another term for a broken bone. Due to trauma or fragile bones, people frequently shatter their fingers.
Your finger’s anatomy is made up of little bones called phalanges. The thumb only has two phalanges, whereas each finger has three. Every one of these bones is brittle. Your knuckles, the joints where the bones of your fingers meet, can also break.
A finger fracture can temporarily be made pain-free with ice and medication. To have an X-ray, however, you must visit a doctor as quickly as possible. Your healthcare professional might advise a splint to stabilise your finger or surgery to fix the break, depending on the nature and severity of the fracture.
Anatomy of finger & palm
Your hand has 27 bones in it.
- 8 bones make up your wrist (carpals)
- The five bones in your hand’s palm (metacarpals)
- Your fingers have 14 bones (phalanges)
The joints between these bones:
- The carpometacarpal (CMC) joint connects a digit’s metacarpal to the wrist. The thumb CMC joint has a lot of range of motion, allowing you to put your thumb in a variety of grasping positions. The CMC joints of the little and ring fingers move slightly, while the CMC joints of the middle and index fingers move very little.
- The metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint connects your finger to the metacarpal.
- The interphalangeal (IP) joints are located between your fingers. The MCP and IP joints work together to allow you to straighten your fingers and make a fist.
How frequently do fingers break?
Fingers breaking easily happen. The most frequent sports-related fractures among adults and teenagers in the country are finger fractures. They can occasionally co-occur with metacarpal fractures (bones that connect your wrist to your fingers).
Fractures of the fingertips and avulsion-type fractures are common in finger fractures. When an injury occurs close to where a tendon or ligament joins to the bones in your hand, the ligament rips a piece of bone away, resulting in an avulsion fracture.
Types of phalanx fractures
Phalanx fractures can be classified into several different types, including:
Proximal phalanx fractures: This type of fracture occurs near the base of the finger, near the joint connecting the finger to the hand.
Middle phalanx fractures: This type of fracture occurs in the middle part of the finger.
Distal phalanx fractures: This type of fracture occurs at the tip of the finger, near the nail.
What causes a phalanx fracture?
Injury is the main cause of most finger fractures. The following are the scenarios that lead to shattered fingers:
- having something swiftly moving, like a baseball, strikes your hand.
- extending your hand to stop a fall.
- slamming a door or drawer with your finger.
- injury to your finger, such as from a vehicle accident.
- utilizing equipment like drills, power saws, or hammers.
Symptoms of phalanx fractures
If you fracture your finger, pain will most likely be your first symptom. Your finger may also appear oddly shaped or out of place. Other symptoms of a broken finger include:
Pain: The affected finger will be extremely painful and tender to the touch.
Swelling: Swelling and bruising may occur around the affected finger.
Stiffness: The affected finger may become stiff and difficult to move.
Deformity: The finger may appear deformed or bent out of shape.
Instability: The affected finger may feel unstable or wobbly.
Even if your finger is broken, you may still be able to move it. However, moving it usually causes pain. Sometimes the pain will be dull and manageable for you. Even if you can tolerate the pain, you should still see a doctor. The sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances of success.
Diagnosis of phalanx fractures
If you believe you have fractured your finger, immediately notify your doctor of what happened and when it occurred. Not only must your doctor determine which bone(s) you fractured, but also how the bone(s) broke.
Bones can break in a variety of ways:
- Directly across the bone
- Into several pieces in a spiral pattern
- Completely shattered
When you extend your hand or make a fist, your doctor may want to see how your fingers line up. Is there any finger that overlaps its neighbor? Is the injured finger pointing the wrong way? Is the injured finger too short?
To better understand the fracture and how it should be treated, your doctor will obtain X-rays and sometimes advanced imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan.
Injuries to other nearby structures will also be investigated by your doctor. It is not uncommon for a fractured finger to also cause injuries to tendons, nerves, and/or ligaments. To ensure a positive outcome, these injuries may need to be treated alongside the broken bone(s).
What does an X-ray of a broken finger reveal?
Your doctor may also order an X-ray to check for fractures. Several X-rays from various angles may be required. An X-ray is used by your provider to:
Examine your hands. In order to compare how your fingers look, your provider may also X-ray a finger on your uninjured hand.
Examine the fracture’s stability. The X-ray shows your provider whether the fracture will stay in place over time (stable) or if it will move out of alignment again (unstable). This information assists your provider in determining your treatment.
Look for signs of joint damage. X-rays can also reveal finger joint damage (cartilage surfaces that connect bones). If your joints do not line up properly, you may require surgery to correct this.
Surgical treatment of phalanx fracture
Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, surgery may be required to realign the bones and keep them there while they heal.
- Your fractured bones will be held together with small devices such as pins, screws, plates, or wires. These devices can sometimes be left in place indefinitely, but they must be removed once the fracture heals.
- You may be able to move the finger soon after surgery to avoid stiffness, depending on the strength of the repair.
- Fractures involving the CMC, MCP, or IP joints are especially concerning and frequently necessitate surgery. When these fractures are not treated promptly and appropriately, they can cause significant finger dysfunction as well as long-term consequences such as arthritis.
- Therapy is often required after surgery for finger fractures to help prevent or correct stiffness.
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