It is important to note that finger amputations are severe injuries that can lead to significant changes in the ability of the individual to perform daily activities that requires the hands. With this in mind, once a finger is cut off, the doctor might attempt to reattach the severed digit. Remember that not all fingers should be reattached, but the individual should undergo careful and immediate assessment in order to determine the suitable form of treatment for the injury.
First aid for finger amputation
Once a finger is cut off, the amputated part of the digit must be wrapped in moist gauze. You have to keep the finger moist but not wet or immersed in water. Take note that saline is ideal but a damp, clean paper towel is enough. This must be stored in a hygienic sealable plastic bag or disinfected container and then placed on ice. The severed finger should not be directly exposed to the ice. Avoid using dry ice since this will permanently damage the tissue of the amputated finger.
In case replantation of the finger is considered, immediate medical care is required. Replantation is not possible for fingers that have been separated from the body for more than 12 hours. In circumstances in which the injury is further into the arm or hand, the time of reattachment is shorter since muscle tissue should be reattached within 6 hours after the time of injury.
When an amputated finger should not be reattached
- A finger that has been mangled, crushed or contaminated should not be reattached. This is often seen in injuries from chain saws, lawn mowers and farming equipment.
- A single finger amputation often causes more issues if reattached than amputated. The objective of reattachment is to restore the hand function. Take note that a single finger can often get in the way of holding with the remaining digits. This is true if the single severed finger is the small or index finger.
- Due to the anatomical structure of the finger, amputations at the base of the finger are harder to recover from amputations at the middle level. The nerve function seldom recovers to provide good sensation in injuries at the base of the finger.
- Fingertip amputations seldom require reattachment since the capacity for these injuries to heal is relatively good. The reattachment of the tip of a finger can result to more issues than allowing the injury to heal on its own.
When reattachment is required
There are cases in which special effort is made in order to reattach a finger that has been severed.
- Children who have severed fingers are more likely to heal and achieve good function of the replanted finger. With this in mind, every effort is made in order to reattach the severed fingers, particularly in young children.
- Multiple digit amputations and thumb injuries require reattachment. The main objective of reattachment is to restore the ability to grasp which is ideally accomplished once the hand has a thumb and at least two fingers. In case the thumb or multiple digits are cut off, an extra attempt is made to reattach the severed digits.