Each finger is made up of 3 bones called phalanges that are separated by 2 joints. The thumb has 2 phalanges that are separated by one joint. An injury to the fingers can cause a fracture of one of its phalanges.
How does a phalanx fracture occur?
A phalanx fracture can occur when you jam your fingers in the door, try to protect yourself while falling, cut yourself with a tool, or get hit by a fast moving object such as a bat or a ball. Bones weakened by osteoporosis or calcium deficiency are more easily fractured.
Signs and symptoms of a phalanx fracture
The fracture site is usually painful and may involve swelling, tenderness, bruising, deformity and immobility. If the skin is ruptured it is called an open fracture. The bone may shatter into multiple pieces (comminuted fracture), or the fracture fragments may be dislocated or pulled apart (avulsion fracture).
Diagnosis of a phalanx fracture
Your doctor will question you to determine the cause of injury and thoroughly examine your hand for deformities and alignment of the bones when you extend your hand or make a fist. X-rays are ordered to visualize the fracture and determine its type.
Treatment of a phalanx fracture
If your fracture is not complicated, your doctor will approximate or reduce the fracture fragments ensuring your finger is correctly aligned. Your finger will then be stabilized in a cast or a splint for a period of 3 weeks, during which time X-rays may be ordered to check for healing. If your fracture is complicated, you may need surgery to bring your bones into correct alignment and stabilize them internally with screws, pins and wires.
Once your doctor determines that sufficient healing has occurred, you will be encouraged to move your fingers and perform rehabilitation exercises in order to prevent stiffness, reduce swelling and strengthen the finger.