Extensor Tendon Injuries

About 10% of all emergency room visits involve injury to the hand. Extensor tendons are strong bands of tissue that straighten the fingers by connecting the muscles of the forearm and hand to the bones in the fingers and thumb. Because extensor tendons are located directly below the skin, they are particularly susceptible to tendon injuries and lacerations. Symptoms may include the inability to straighten or extend one or more fingers, pain and swelling, numbness and tingling, or weakening hand strength,

Extensor injuries must be appropriately diagnosed and repaired surgically in order to restore normal finger extension and hand use. Delaying treatment can lead to significant loss of function within the hand and fingers. 


The goal of treatment is to restore normal finger extension and hand function. Nonsurgical options are tried first, but surgical repair is nearly always needed to fix the damaged tendon before permanent deformity occurs.

Non-Surgical Treatments


Tendon Repair Surgery

This outpatient surgery realigns the torn ends and sutures the tendon together. Early motion rehabilitation, when indicated, is optimal after repair.

Tendon Graft Surgery

When primary repair fails, a tendon graft from the forearm or foot can reconstruct the damaged extensor.

Tendon Transfer

This procedure involves taking a functioning tendon and transferring/moving it to restore finger extension. The tendon is left attached to its origin but re-routed and connected to a new insertion point.

Why Patients Trust the Center for Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery

Our advanced out-patient surgery center is led by renowned orthopedic and plastic surgeons who specialize exclusively in hand, wrist, and elbow procedures. Patients gain access to state-of-the-art diagnostics and treatments in a more private environment that ensures the highest standards of patient safety, quality, and continuity of care. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Extensor tendon injuries require prompt medical evaluation to avoid permanent finger deformity. You should seek immediate care if you experience sudden loss of ability to straighten one or more fingers, pain and swelling over the back of the hand, or a cut or laceration near a knuckle. The sooner the tendon damage is diagnosed, the better the chances of a full recovery. Even if symptoms are mild at first, it is crucial to have the hand surgically evaluated so that a partially torn tendon does not worsen over time. Full tendon tears must be repaired surgically within 7-14 days before scar tissue develops. 


What are the common causes of extensor tendon injuries?
Extensor tendon injuries are often caused by trauma, such as a direct blow, laceration, or a sudden forceful bend of a finger. They can also result from overuse or repetitive strain.
How are extensor tendon injuries diagnosed by healthcare professionals?
Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination to assess the range of motion and strength in the affected finger or hand. Imaging studies like X-rays or ultrasound may be used to visualize the extent of the injury. MRI may be necessary in more advanced cases.
What can I expect in terms of treatment outcomes for extensor tendon injuries?
The prognosis varies depending on the extent of the injury and the promptness of treatment. With proper care, many patients can regain full or near-full function of the injured hand or finger. However, it's crucial to follow the recommended treatment plan and engage in rehabilitative exercises for the best possible outcome.
HUES Surgeons

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