Flexor Tendon Injuries | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Flexor Tendon Injuries

Overview and Facts about Flexor Tendon Injuries

A flexor tendon injury is an orthopaedic condition affecting the tendons in the hand. Flexor tendons connect the muscles in your arm to the bones in your hand. These tendons originate near the elbow and extend down the arm into the fingers.

Flexor tendons are located just below the surface of the skin and allow you to bend and straighten your fingers. A deep cut can damage or sever these tendons. Pulling hard on the fingers or hand could also tear the flexor tendons.

Signs and Symptoms of Flexor Tendon Injuries

Often, flexor tendon injuries are caused by a cut or visible injury across the palm or fingers. Symptoms typically appear in the fingers and may include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Tingling
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Stiffness

Damage to the flexor tendons can prevent you from straightening or curling your fingers. If the flexor tendons are completely severed, you might not be able to move your fingers at all.

Causes and Risk Factors of Flexor Tendon Injuries

Injuries to the flexor tendons often result from a deep cut made by a sharp object. Shards of glass or metal could cause a deep wound in the palm or fingers. Other sharp objects, such as nails, can sometimes puncture the skin and damage the flexor tendons.

Common causes of cuts or punctures to the hand include:

  • Auto accidents
  • Industrial accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Handling broken glass
  • Animal bites

In some cases, the tendon is damaged during a pulling injury. These injuries often occur due to intense physical activities such as playing football, wrestling, or rock climbing.

More rarely, flexor tendons might weaken due to an underlying medical condition. Illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis can damage the flexor tendon without direct injury.

Tests and Diagnosis of Flexor Tendon Injuries

A doctor can diagnose a flexor tendon injury during a physical exam. They might ask you to rotate your hand or curl your fingers. If you cannot bend your fingers normally, your doctor might suspect a flexor tendon injury.

In some cases, doctors order X-rays to check for damage to the bones. CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasound tests can also help reveal damage to other areas of the hand or arm.

Treatment and Care for Flexor Tendon Injuries

Damaged tendons are usually corrected with surgery. For the best results, surgery should be performed within one or two weeks of the injury. Flexor tendon surgery is usually an outpatient procedure.

Your doctor might recommend wearing a splint or cast to keep your hand immobile after surgery, and you might need physical therapy to promote healing.

With proper medical care, a full recovery is possible. However, delaying treatment can result in permanent injury to the hand.