Definition

Tendons are responsible for connecting muscles to bone. The fingers have tendons that run all the way up to the finger tips. The tendons on the palm side enable you to curl (flex) your fingers. A flexor tendon injury is damage to these tendons. When the tendons are damaged you can lose your ability to bend your finger(s).

Healthy Flexor Tendons of the Hand

flexor tendon
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If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor promptly. The sooner treatment is begun, the better the outcome.

Causes

Flexor tendon injures most commonly occur as a cut or laceration to the hand. Other causes include:

  • Damage to the tendon from:
    • Cut to fingers—palm side
    • Sports injury
      • Stretching of tendon
      • Jersey finger—when finger catches on another player’s jersey or clothing
    • Rheumatoid arthritis

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of a flexor tendon injury. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Participation in certain sports
    • Rugby
    • Football
    • Wrestling
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to flexor tendon injury. These may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Inability to bend finger
  • Cut to hand or fingers
  • Loss of sensation

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. During the exam you will be asked to bend and straighten your fingers. Your doctor will also check your fingers for sensation, blood flow, and strength. You may be referred to a hand surgeon or an orthopedist (doctor who specializes in bones).

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Most patients with this type of injury require surgery. Surgery may be scheduled immediately or within several days. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

Depending upon the type of injury, you may receive antibiotics to prevent infection.

Surgery

Tendons that are cut or ruptured require surgery. The hand surgeon may sew the tendon back together. It may be necessary to sew the tendon back to the muscle.

Rehabilitation

After surgery, you will be given a splint to protect your hand. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear it. It may be up to two months. A physical therapist will work with you to regain your finger strength and range of motion.

Prevention

Flexor tendon injuries are typically caused by accidental injuries. There are no known prevention guidelines for this injury.