Children's Hospital Colorado

Mallet Finger

What is a mallet finger?

A mallet finger is a deformity of the finger that happens when the extensor tendon (the tendon that straightens your finger) is injured or damaged.

  • Sometimes a small piece of bone will also break off during the injury.
  • The tip of the finger will no longer straighten.
  • The fingertip droops.
  • The finger may hurt. It may also be swollen and bruised.
  • Sometimes blood collects under the fingernail, and the fingernail may even come away from the finger.
An illustration of mallet finger, showing where the impact occurs at the tip of the finger causing the bone to fracture. It also shows where the extensor tendon connects to the fractured bone.

What causes a mallet finger?

The tendon is often injured when an object hits the tip of the finger, such as a jamming injury.

How is a mallet finger diagnosed?

Mallet finger is diagnosed by examination. The doctor may order X-rays to look at the bones, see if a piece of bone has pulled away and to be sure the finger is in correct position.

What is the treatment for mallet finger?

Most mallet fingers are treated by wearing a splint on the finger for up to eight weeks. The splint keeps the finger straight so the tendon can heal. This treatment is only successful if the splint is worn all the time and only a specially trained provider can remove or change the splint.

If surgery is necessary to repair the mallet finger:

  • The surgery will be done in the operating room under general anesthesia (the child is put to sleep).
  • The finger is put in the correct position. Small pins, wires or screws are used to hold the bone straight while the tendon heals.

After surgery:

  • After surgery, the hand will have a bandage, and sometimes there will be a splint or cast over the bandage.
  • The child is usually able to go home the same day.

Why choose Children's Hospital Colorado for your child's mallet finger treatment?

Our Hand and Upper Extremity Program at Children's Colorado provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to the care of your child. This means you have access to leading specialists from multiple departments who work together to treat your child.

Your child's care team includes pediatric experts from orthopedic surgery, physical medicine, rehabilitation, occupational therapy and nursing.