5 Potential Broken Finger Complications

January 11th 2016
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor

When treating a broken finger, retail clinicians should make patients aware of potential complications.

When treating a broken finger, retail clinicians should make patients aware of potential complications.

Devising a treatment plan for a broken finger is often straightforward. If the break consists of just minor cracks or chips, then strapping or bandaging the finger is usually sufficient to allow the bone to heal within about 3 weeks.

More severe breaks, however, can take much longer to fully heal.

Unlike other broken bones, patients sometimes don’t view broken fingers as a serious injury—an outlook that could lead to delays in diagnosis and potential complications.

Here are 5 complications that retail clinicians should ensure their patients are aware of:

1. Joint Stiffness

This is the most common potential complication of a broken finger. It is caused by scar tissue formation around the break point, in addition to the prolonged immobilization period.

Physical therapy may be needed to regain full range of motion and reduce swelling.

2. Rotation

This can occur when the fractured bone rotates during the healing process. The complication can lead to deformity and decreased ability to grasp with the injured finger.

Because rotation issues are not always apparent during finger extension, patients should make a fist and see how their affected finger handles the bending.

3. Nonunion

This happens when the 2 ends of the fractured bone fail to grow back together. Two reasons for nonunion include skin tissue getting stuck between the bones at the time of fracture and bone fragments being too far apart to fuse back together.

Nonunion most often occurs when the injury is not treated promptly.

4. Post-Traumatic Arthritis

This occurs when joint surface cartilage wears out during the bone healing process.

Although this complication cannot be prevented, it can be treated. Common remedies for post-traumatic arthritis include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle-strengthening exercises, or, in the most severe cases, surgery.

5. Osteomyelitis

This bone infection can occur when a broken finger requires surgery to fix injured skin or the fractured bone. Surgery may be required if the break is unstable.

The types of surgery that may be necessary include:

  • Kirschner wires
  • Internal plate fixation
  • Interosseous wires
  • External fixation

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