Treatment options and outcome after bony avulsion of the flexor digitorum profundus tendon: a review of 29 cases

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2017 Feb;137(2):285-292. doi: 10.1007/s00402-016-2619-1. Epub 2017 Jan 10.


Introduction: The objective of this retrospective review was to evaluate the functional and esthetic outcomes in patients with non- or minimally (<2 mm), and severely (>2 mm) displaced bony avulsions of the flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) tendon.

Materials and methods: Between 1996 and 2010, 29 patients with a bony avulsion of the FDP tendon were treated. The displacement magnitude of the avulsed fragment determined, whether conservative or surgical treatment was performed. Persisting functional deficit, radiological findings, remaining disabilities using the Disability of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) score, as well as treatment-related deformities and complications were evaluated retrospectively and at a mean follow-up of 7 years.

Results: In 16 patients, conservative therapy by initial static splinting due to a fragment displacement of <2 mm was conducted. These patients reported no functional impairment at follow-up. In 13 cases, major displacement (>2 mm) of the bony fragment led to an open reconstruction of the avulsion injury either by screw fixation or a Lengemann pull-out wire. In a majority, an extension deficit in the DIP joint and a decrease of tip pinch strength by 25% was present at follow-up. In five patients, peri- or short-term postoperative complications occurred and in five, a nail deformity remained. DASH score revealed satisfying results after both therapeutic approaches.

Conclusions: Conservative treatment in non- or minimally displaced avulsions leads to satisfying functional results. Patients receiving surgery after major fragment displacement need to be aware of a possible impaired ROM at the DIP joint. The use of the Lengemann pull-out wire may place patients at an increased complication risk and frequently induces nail deformities.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic, level IV.

Keywords: Bony flexor digitorum profundus tendon avulsion treatment; Flexor digitorum profundus tendon repair; Flexor tendon injury; Jersey finger.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Screws*
  • Bone Wires*
  • Female
  • Finger Injuries / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedic Procedures / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery*
  • Young Adult