Felon – Infection of the Fingertip Pulp

What is it?
A felon is a bacterial infection of the pulp or fleshy part of the fingertip. These infections are usually caused by something penetrating the skin of the fingertip – a cut, scratch or animal bite.

What are the symptoms?
Pain is the main symptom of a felon – the fingertip is made up of a specialised fat pad, and has a huge number of nerves compared to most other parts of the body. Minor increases in the pressure of the fingertip produce intense pain and swelling, and the pain does not settle at night-time.

What is the natural history?
In its early stages, a felon can be treated with oral antibiotics. If the infection is not dealt with early, it usually produces a collection of pus in the fingertip, and this pus is under pressure. The pressure will either cause the pus to discharge through the skin, or it will start to destroy the specialised tissue of the fingertip.

What treatment may be required?
If the felon does not improve with oral or intravenous antibiotics, then surgery is usually recommended to drain pus from the fingertip. The surgeon will make an incision down the middle of the pulp, and wash out the fingertip. The wound is then left open to drain, and early movement of the fingertip is encouraged.

© Fife Hand Service 2021

%d bloggers like this: