Finger and Thumb Fractures | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Fractures of the Finger and Thumb

Overview and Facts about Fractures of the Finger and Thumb

Fractures of the finger and thumb occur when you break one of the many bones that make up these digits. Each finger has three bones, called phalanges. The thumb, however, only has two phalanges. You can fracture any of these phalanges as well as the joints between them, also known as knuckles.

There are many different kinds of fractures, but here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Impacted fracture, which is when the bone breaks and both ends squish into each other.
  • Open fracture, which is when the bone breaks through the skin.
  • Closed fracture, which is when the bone stays inside the skin.
  • Avulsion fracture, which is when a piece of bone and the tendon or ligament attached to it pull away from the bone it should be connected to.
  • Shear fracture, which is when a bone breaks and the two pieces split apart in different directions.

Signs and Symptoms of Fractures of the Finger and Thumb

The signs and symptoms of a broken finger or thumb are quite apparent, with pain being the most common symptom. Other things you might notice include:

  • Tenderness in the area.
  • Swelling or bruising.
  • Visible deformities in your fingers.
  • Trouble moving your finger.
  • Coldness or numbness in the finger.

Causes and Risk Factors of Fractures of the Finger and Thumb

The biggest cause of a finger or thumb fracture is a powerful impact to the area. For example, you might drop a tool on your hand or slam your hand in a car door.

Playing sports is another common cause of broken fingers and thumbs. In particular, sports that involve the hands, such as basketball, baseball, volleyball, and football, are major contributors.

While anyone can suffer an injury that leads to a fracture, the people most susceptible to this kind of problem are those with:

  • Osteoporosis.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • A calcium deficiency.
  • A job that involves manual labor.

Tests and Diagnosis of Fractures of the Finger and Thumb

To test for a broken finger or thumb, your doctor will perform the standard diagnostic procedures for nearly all orthopaedic conditions: performing a physical exam and ordering imaging tests. The most common imaging test is an X-ray, which lets your doctor get a closer look at the bones in your hand.

Treatment and Care for Fractures of the Finger and Thumb

Treatment depends on the severity and location of the fracture. If the fracture is stable, you can often get away with simply splinting the injured finger to an adjacent finger to keep it immobilized. If you have a fracture like this, it should heal in just a few weeks.

For more serious fractures, you might need surgery to help put the bones back in place. In particular, surgery is used when dealing with:

  • Complex joint injuries.
  • Loose bone fragments.
  • Numerous fractures.
  • Open or impacted fractures.

The recovery time for these types of injuries can be up to a year.