Flexor Tendon Injuries

Flexor tendons run from the forearm to the ends of the fingers across the palm side of the hand. They control the ability to bend fingers down to the palm (for example to make a fist, grip, or pinch objects).  When these tendons are cut or injured, it can be impossible to bend the fingers or thumb.

The University of Michigan hand surgery team is fellowship trained and specializes in the treatment of flexor tendon injuries, from simple to complex. Our goal is to restore mobility and function of the fingers as soon as possible with minimal impact on the patient’s quality of life.

Risk Factors for Flexor Tendon Injuries

There are several factors that can increase the risk for flexor tendon injuries:

  • Cuts to the arm, hand or fingers
  • Sports activities, such as football, wrestling, rugby and rock climbing
  • Chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis where muscles are weakened and more likely to tear

Symptoms of Flexor Tendon Injuries

Common signs and symptoms of flexor tendon injuries include:

  • Difficulty bending one or more fingers
  • Numbness on one or both sides of the finger, which indicates damage to the nerve
  • Loss of blood flow to the finger when the blood vessel is cut (which would lead to white or purple discoloration of the finger). This requires immediate surgery.

Diagnosis of Flexor Tendon Injuries

Whether it takes place in an emergency room or office visit, a thorough physical examination and discussion of the patient’s medical history and symptoms will help diagnose flexor tendon injuries.

Treatment of Flexor Tendon Injuries

We offer the latest treatment options available for patients with flexor tendon injuries. Surgery is usually performed to repair the cut or torn tendons. Following surgery, the tendon repair is protected with placement of a protective splint.

After treatment, hand therapy (provided by certified hand occupational therapists) is very important to improve motion and maximize functional recovery of the hand.

In some cases, an additional surgery to remove scar tissue around the tendon is required to improve motion to the affected finger(s). 

Hand Therapy and Rehabilitation for Flexor Tendon Injuries

Therapy for flexor tendon injuries is provided on site at the University of Michigan’s Hand Program by our team of occupational and physical therapists under the direction of a trained hand therapist. Referrals to local providers can be arranged closer to home as a more convenient option for patients.

The ultimate goal of therapy and rehabilitation is the restoration and optimization of hand function while protecting the repaired tendon. We offer treatment plans that are tailored to fit each patient’s condition, living and work requirements.

Contact Us

If you are considering treatment for a flexor tendon injury, the University of Michigan hand surgeons will guide you, from consultation to recovery, to the best procedure(s) for your individual needs. Our hand surgeons have dual appointments in Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery with a specialization in Hand. Patients may be seen in the Orthopaedic Clinic or the Plastic Surgery Clinic for treatment of hand conditions, or referred to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for non-surgical treatment.

Visit the Make an Appointment at the Comprehensive Hand Center page for contact information for both surgical and non-surgical treatment teams.