Swan Neck Deformity
The Swan Neck Deformity is a common deformity of the fingers that can occur under several types of circumstances. Most commonly associated with arthritis, Swan Neck Deformities occur as the joints and soft connective tissues of the finger become affected by the inflammation that occurs with arthritis. The normal alignment of the finger becomes compromised as the middle finger joint (PIP joint) is pulled into hyperextension (is bent slightly backwards). Concurrently, the distal DIP joint (the joint toward the tip of the finger) is then forced into a position of flexion as the normal connective tissue alignment changes. It is this deformity that, when viewed from the side, takes the shape of that of a swan’s neck.
Swan Neck Deformity can also occur with finger injuries that result from contact with a forcefully moving object (a common occurrence in sports) or forceful contact against an immobile object. Mallet Finger injuries, when left untreated, can often develop into Swan Neck Deformities.
Prompt care is required to treat this condition. Proper finger splinting, coupled with specific exercises and treatments to promote normal extension and movement in the finger as well as strength and function, will typically alleviate this condition.
Medical Illustration From The Merck Manual of Medical Information – Second Home Edition, edited by Robert S. Porter. Copyright 2008 by Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe. Accessed 12/5/08.
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