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Swan Neck Deformity

Have you ever seen fingers like this before? If you have, you have likely heard of a swan neck deformity.

Swan neck deformity is a condition in which the closer (proximal) interphalangeal joint is stuck in a hyperextended position while the farther (distal) joint is bent. The condition has various different causes, including trauma to the hand, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis. The condition causes the volar plate ligament in the finger to become loose, which causes the hyperextended position while the tension from the hyperextension causes the bend in the distal joint. The combination of the bending causes pain along with limited use of the hand and fingers. There may also be some snapping sensations during movement as well as damage to the joint cartilage. In the long term, swan neck deformity can cause stiffness in the hand and play a factor into other hand-related conditions.

Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the swan neck deformity. In the most simple of cases, stretching of the hand and corrective splinting would increase mobility and flexibility of the joint while correcting the bent positions. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to repair the volar plate ligament to its original form, or joint fusion may be required for severe degenerative arthritis of the joint. Swan neck disorder may also be corrected by resolving the underlying causes of the condition, especially for those with strokes, cerebral palsy, or Parkinson’s disease.

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