Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I am a butcher apprentice in my third year of training. Many butchers have lost fingertips or even half a finger or more. I often wonder if something like that happened to me should I save the finger and take it with me to the hospital? Can they sew it back on?

Answer:

Finger replantation (that's what it's called when the surgeon reattaches a finger or fingertip) has been possible since the 1960s. High-powered microscopes developed at that time (and since improved) have made it possible for surgeons to see tiny blood vessels and nerves. Unless blood vessels and nerves are matched up and reconnected properly, loss of sensation and temperature control can occur. You wouldn't necessarily know it to look at the tip of the finger but the anatomy is incredibly complex. There are multiple pulleys that make it possible for the finger to bend. A network of arteries, veins, ligaments, fascia (connective tissue), and an elaborate lymphatic (fluid drainage) system are all contained within the finger. All of the structures are tiny and their locations are not exactly the same from person-to-person. Certain types of amputation injuries are easier to repair than others. The most likely type to be successful is the guillotine amputation of the fingertip. That's a cut straight through the finger with no jagged edges and little tissue damage. This type of injury can be reconnected without a skin graft. The finger looks and functions normally after replantation. Hand surgeons always advise bringing accidentally amputated body parts with you to the emergency room. Keep it as clean as possible. Wrap it in a clean cloth if one is available. The best plan is to practice safety at all times and avoid such injuries. If possible and appropriate, ask other butchers for safety tips and their advice for preventing accidental amputation of fingers. It may be a difficult conversation, but it could also make a difference for your future in the butcher business. Luis R. Scheker, MD, and Giles W. Becker, MB BChir. Distal Finger Replantation. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. March 2011. Vol. 36A. No. 3. Pp. 521-528.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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