Flexor Tendon Injuries: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Tendons join the muscles to the bone and are responsible for the various hand movements. The tendons located on top of the fingers are known as extensor tendons and help to straighten the fingers. On the other hand, tendons located on the palm side are known as flexor tendons and assist in bending the fingers. Any injury in the hand can affect the flexor tendons and make thumb or finger movements difficult.
A flexor tendon injury can cause damage to the nerves in the fingers as well. In serious injuries, the blood vessels also get cut leaving the finger with no blood supply.

Causes

  • Sports injuries while wrestling or playing football
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Deep cuts on the hands or arms
  • ‘Jersey Finger’, where one player gets hold of other’s jersey and a finger gets pulled

Symptoms

  • Inability to bend the finger
  • A visible injury on the palm
  • Discomfort and pain while bending the finger
  • Numbing sensation in the fingertip
  • Tenderness along the palm

Diagnosis

  • A thorough physical examination of the patient’s hand may be done by the orthopedic doctor
  • The patient may be asked to make certain finger movements so that the extent of injury can be assessed
  • The patient’s hand may also be tested for sensation
  • The doctor may conduct examination to rule out injuries of the nerves and blood vessels
  • Imaging tests such as X-Rays may provide a clear picture of the injury and damage

Treatment

Generally, a tendon that has been cut will not heal without surgery. However, a partially torn tendon can be repaired with the use of splint or physical therapy.

Non-surgical treatment

  • Application of ice packs immediately after a cut on the hand may be beneficial
  • Keeping the hand in an elevated position to stop blood flow
  • The doctor may give an injection and administer antibiotics to prevent infection
  • The injured finger is placed in a splint to protect the hand from further damage before surgery

Surgical treatment

  • Surgery for a flexor tendon injury may be performed within ten days of the injury
  • A dressing and splint may be applied after the surgery
  • The fingers and wrist may be positioned in a bent arrangement to keep tension off the repair
  • Physical therapy may be recommended after surgery to regain normal hand motion
  • Long-term stiffness after flexor tendon injuries is common
  • In certain patients, another surgery may have to be performed to treat the scar tissue and help the patient use his hand normally

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