A mallet finger splint is a device used to help treat a condition known as mallet finger, which occurs when the tendon that controls the tip of a finger either separates from the bone or otherwise becomes unable to adequately move the joint. In some cases, the tendon may actually pull a piece of the bone off with it, leading to significant pain and discomfort. The tip of the finger will generally bend downward when mallet finger occurs, and the patient will not be able to straighten the finger on his or her own. To treat this injury, a mallet finger splint is secured to the finger for long term treatment.
It may be necessary to have a custom splint made, but usually a mallet finger splint will come in one of many sizes that will be appropriate for different patients. It is a good idea to have a doctor choose the right size splint for the patient, as the splint must be worn properly in order to be effective. A splint that is too large can allow movement in the finger, and a splint that is too small can be painful or uncomfortable. The mallet finger splint will need to be worn constantly for several weeks or even months, so it is important to choose one that is relatively comfortable and effective.
Rigid materials are used to make the splint. Such materials may include aluminum or certain types of plastic; some mallet finger splint models are padded for additional comfort, though this can allow movement that can prevent healing. Molded plastic splints are good choices because they can be molded to be comfortable while remaining exceptionally rigid. Sometimes a doctor may have a patient change splints during the course of a treatment; each successive splint may hold the finger straighter and straighter until the injury heals.
Once healing has progressed to a certain point, the doctor may recommend that the patient wean himself or herself off the use of the splint. This is usually encouraged after several weeks or months of healing, and the joint can straighten itself on its own. Rehabilitation exercises may be necessary once the splint has been removed and healing has occurred in the digit. In worst case scenarios, the doctor may need to insert a pin into the finger to splint it internally; this is not a common treatment and is reserved only for the most severe instances of mallet finger.