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Phalanges of the hand

The phalanges are the terminal bones of the upper limb. There are fourteen in total, with each finger having three; a proximal, middle and distal phalanx, with the exception of the thumb, which only has two; a proximal and a distal phalanx.

Recommended video: Phalanges of the Hand
Phalanges of the hand and related bony landmarks.

Proximal Phalanges

There are five proximal phalanges which correspond to each of the five fingers. Like the metacarpal bones, the proximal phalanges have a proximal base with a transverse oval articular facet which connects them to their subsequent metacarpal bones respectfully. Their shafts are long and are flat on their palmar aspect. They are convex both dorsally and transversally and also have sharpened medial and lateral borders in order for the fibrous tendon sheaths of the flexor muscles to attach. Distally, the trochlea or phalangeal head has an articular surface that links the proximal phalanges to the middle phalanges and in the case of the thumb, to its distal phalanx.

Proximal phalanges of the hand - dorsal view

Proximal phalanges of the hand - dorsal view

Middle Phalanges

There are four middle phalanges which correspond to the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger and the little finger. They have a proximal base and a distal head which is separated by a much shorter shaft than that of the proximal phalanges. The base of a proximal phalanx has a medial and lateral facet that surrounds a midline groove that is smooth and is coherent with the distal head of the proximal phalanx. Distally, the heads of the middle phalanges articulate with the bases of the distal phalanges.

Bases of middle phalanges 2-5 of the hand - dorsal view

Bases of middle phalanges 2-5 of the hand - dorsal view

Distal Phalanges

There are five distal phalanges, including that of the thumb. Each of them is tapered distally and has a wider proximal base that articulates with the middle phalanges or the proximal phalanx in the case of the thumb. Distally, the surfaces of the distal phalanges are rough, especially on their palmar aspect where the tendon of the flexor digitorum profundus inserts. Dorsally, a rough spade-shaped plate that faces in the palmar direction can be seen and is known as the tuberosity of the distal phalanx.

Distal phalanges of the hand - dorsal view

Distal phalanges of the hand - dorsal view

Mallet Finger

Mallet finger is a term used to describe a dislocated fracture of the extended distal phalanx of a finger and is commonly seen is sports such as volleyball or baseball. In this situation, the force of impact disconnects the distal phalanx from the middle phalanx and in some cases the tendon that attaches to it is also ruptured.

When this happens, the flexor digitorum profundus tendon may also avulse small or large bone fragments with it. Damage risk to the tendon is increased when it undergoes violent traction as the distal phalanx is flexed.

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Show references


  • John T. Hansen, Netter’s Clinical Anatomy, 2nd Edition, Saunders Elsevier, Chapter 7 Upper Limb, Subchapter 6. Wrist and Hand, Pages 323 and 333 to 335.
  • Werner Platzer, Color Atlas of Human Anatomy Vol.1 Locomotor System, 6th Edition, Thieme Basic Sciences Flexibook, Chapter 3 Upper Limb: Bones, Ligaments, Joints - Bones of the Metacarpus and Digits, Page 128 to 129.
  • Richard S. Snell, Clinical Anatomy for Medical Students, 5th Edition, Little and Brown, Chapter 9 - The Upper Limb, The Metacarpals and The Phalanges, Page 424.
  • Frank H. Netter, MD, Atlas of Human Anatomy, 5th Edition, Saunders Elsevier, Chapter 6 Upper Limb, Subchapter 47. Wrist and Hand, Guide: Upper Limb - Wrist and Hand, Page 231.
  • Heinz Feneis and Wolfgang Dauber, Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy based on the International Nomenclature, 4th Edition - fully revised, Thieme Flexibook, Chapter 1 Bones - Bones of the Hand, Pages 40 to 41.

Author and Layout:

  • Dr. Alexandra Sieroslawska
  • Catarina Chaves


  • Proximal phalanges of the hand - dorsal view - Yousun Koh
  • Bases of middle phalanges 2-5 of the hand - dorsal view - Yousun Koh
  • Distal phalanges of the hand - dorsal view - Yousun Koh
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Related Atlas Images

Phalanges of the hand

Bones of the wrist and hand

Main bones of the upper extremity

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