Extensors of the Hand

Kevin Chen; Mark H. Gonzalez; Vivek Mohan


Curr Orthop Pract. 2013;24(2):189-196. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The complex yet delicate anatomy of the hand allows for the array of functions it can accomplish. The coupled forces of flexion and extension with respect to each joint keep the digits in balance. To comprehend the sophisticated functions of the extensor tendons, one must have a clear appreciation for both the myriad of anatomical variations described in the literature and the dynamic forces occurring within this physical system. With an awareness of the possible aberrations and an understanding of these principles, the surgeon can make better preoperative and intraoperative decisions when dealing with a diseased or traumatized hand. To this extent, anatomical and functional variations documented in the literature are described here to better appreciate the extensor system of the hand with surgical applications in mind.


The digits of the hand are the instruments of human function, without which would transform the simple tasks of daily life into an arduous struggle. The anatomy of the hand and fingers are formed from a complex structure of bones held together by ligaments and made functional by tendons from their respective muscles, signaled by their nerves. The tendons form a long network of reins each inserting onto a particular bony site. The extensor and flexor tendons work in synchronization to move each joint in a digit, allowing the entire hand to accomplish amazing movements.