Open Finger Fracture

You have a broken finger (fracture) with a nearby cut, puncture, or deep scrape. This causes pain, swelling, and bruising. Because of the open injury, you are at risk for infection in the skin and bone. You will take antibiotics to lower the risk for infection. 

This injury usually takes about 4 weeks to heal. Finger injuries are often treated with a splint or cast, or by taping the injured finger to the next one (buddy taping). This protects the injured finger and holds the bone in position while it heals. More serious fractures may need surgery.

If the fingernail has been severely injured, it will probably fall off in 1 to 2 weeks. A new fingernail will usually start to grow back within a month.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Keep your hand elevated to reduce pain and swelling. When sitting or lying down keep your arm above the level of your heart. You can do this by placing your arm on a pillow that rests on your chest or on a pillow at your side. This is most important during the first 2 days (48 hours) after the injury.

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area. Do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day for pain relief. You can make an ice pack by wrapping a plastic bag of ice cubes in a thin towel. As the ice melts, be careful that the cast or splint doesn’t get wet. Continue using the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day until the pain and swelling go away.

  • Keep the cast or splint completely dry at all times. Bathe with your cast or splint out of the water. Protect it with a large plastic bag, rubber-banded at the top end. If a fiberglass cast or splint gets wet, you can dry it with a hair dryer.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • If buddy tape was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, change it. You may replace it with paper, plastic, or cloth tape. Cloth tape and paper tapes must be kept dry. Keep the buddy tape in place for at least 4 weeks.

  • Take all antibiotics until you have finished them.

  • Don’t put creams or objects under the cast if you have itching.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. This is to make sure the bone is healing the way it should.

X-rays may be taken. You will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The cast or splint cracks

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint stays wet for more than 24 hours

  • Pain or swelling gets worse

  • Tightness or pressure under the cast or splint gets worse

  • Finger becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • You can’t move your finger

  • Redness, warmth, swelling, drainage from the wound, or foul odor from a cast or splint

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, as directed by your healthcare provider 

  • Shaking chills

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