Accidents happen, and one of the most traumatic is when someone cuts off their finger. It can happen to anyone using a knife, a saw, or even jamming their fingers in a car door. Garbage disposals are also to blame for many lost fingers and fingertips, when people attempt to retrieve something from inside.
It’s no mystery as so how a finger might become amputated, but knowing what to do immediately following can save you, or someone else.
What To Do If Someone Cuts Off Their Finger
- Raise the hand above the heart
- Cover with dry and sterile gauze
- Apply ice
- Immobilize the wrist and hand using a splint
- Wrap the amputated finger wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag, then place into another plastic bag filled with ice.
- Get to a hospital right away, you only have 12 hours to re-attach the amputated finger.
Dealing With Pain
The fingers have lots of tiny nerves, making them one of the most painful places on the body to be injured. If you’ve ever hammered your finger by accident, you know how painful it can be, so you can imagine the pain from severing the finger right through the bone.
- Apply Ice
Ice should numb the pain and stop bleeding.
- Pain Relievers
Advil or Motrin should help with pain until you can get the victim to a hospital, where they will administer a nerve block
Re-Attaching Severed Fingers
Microsurgery is needed to re-attach a finger. The procedure is called replanting, and this type of surgery uses special tools and high magnification levels to repair the tiny structures in your finger.
Your finger has an intricate layout of structures that include …
- Two main nerves
- Two arteries
- Three main tendons
- Multiple veins
- Soft tissue
- And more
Connecting the nerves and tendons is a like sewing a straw together that has been cut in half. You need to make sure the hole remains so that fluid can move through the straw. Now shrink that straw down to 3mm, and that’s how intricate micro surgery can be.
Once at the hospital, the finger and hand will be evaluated as well as the condition of the victim, making sure they are breathing and are not going into shock. Then …
- A nerve block is administered to manage pain
- An injection of a local anesthetic is administered
- Micro-surgery begins
If all goes well, and the finger was properly cared for, transported to the hospital, and the finger was not cut off too close to the base, there is a 90% chance that the finger can be reattached successfully and that it will the finger will regain some functionality.
When A Finger Cannot Be Re-Attached
- Cut Off Too Far Up
If a finger is cut off at the base, or close to the base of the finger it can be hard to re-attach due to loss of nerve function. If re-attached the finger would most likely be a dead finger.
A finger that is lost due to a chainsaw, lawn mower, farming equipment, or a snowblower can result in a crushed or mangled finger that is too far gone to re attach.
It is better to let the finger heal, than to re-attach a fingertip. The tips heal very quickly.
Post Operative Function
Most fingers that are successfully re-attached result in …
- 50% of regained mobility
- Loss of sensation
- Cold intolerance
- Chronic pain
Medications will be administered to increase blood flow. If blood flow is good, the hand will be elevated, but if it is slow or impaired, the hand is lowered to increase flow to the finger. The doctor will check on warmth of the finger and color, on a regular basis. If skin temperature falls below 86 degrees Fahrenheit, that means the blood is not flowing into the finger properly. A three day hospital stay is the norm.
- Complications depend on how the finger was amputated. Those resulting from crushing, or rings getting caught in machinery, are at a higher risk of complications.
- If blood flow to the finger cannot be restored, or the functionality of the finger is below 50%, the finger may have to be amputated in a subsequent surgery.
- Infection is another complication that can result from re-attachment, and if not monitored and cared for, can result in amputation of the finger.
Accidental finger amputation is common, with over 10,000 cases occurring in the workplace. A finger that is amputated from the mid-point toward the tip has a 90% chance of being re-attached provided the finger is kept on ice and the victim is in surgery within 12 hours of the injury. Doctors will manage pain with a nerve block at the hospital. Most finger amputations occur when using knives, saws, or machinery.