Mallet finger injuries that are not treated typically result in stiffness and deformity of the injured fingertip. The majority of mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery.
In children, mallet finger injuries may involve the cartilage that controls bone growth. The doctor must carefully evaluate and treat this injury in children, so that the finger does not become stunted or deformed.
Most mallet finger injuries are treated with splinting. A splint holds the fingertip straight (in extension) until it heals.
To restore function to the finger, the splint must be worn full time for 8 weeks. This means that it must be worn while bathing, then carefully changed after bathing. As the splint dries, you must keep your injured finger straight. If the fingertip droops at all, healing is disrupted and you will need to wear the splint for a longer period of time.
Because wearing a splint for a long period of time can irritate the skin, your doctor may talk with you about how to carefully check your skin for problems. Your doctor may also schedule additional visits over the course of the 8 weeks to monitor your progress.
For 3 to 4 weeks after the initial splinting period, you will gradually wear the splint less frequently — perhaps only at night. Splinting treatment usually results in both acceptable function and appearance, however, many patients may not regain full fingertip extension.
For some patients, the splinting regimen is very difficult. In these cases, the doctor may decide to insert a temporary pin across the fingertip joint to hold it straight for 8 weeks.
Your doctor may consider surgical repair if there is a large fracture fragment or the joint is out of line (subluxed). In these cases, surgery is done to repair the fracture using pins to hold the pieces of bone together while the injury heals.
It is not common to treat a mallet finger surgically if bone fragments or fractures are not present. Surgical treatment of the damaged tendon usually requires a tendon graft — tendon tissue that is taken (harvested) from another part of your body — or even fusing the joint straight.
An orthopedic surgeon should be consulted in making the decision to treat this condition surgically