If you have a tendency to look at people‚Äôs hands when you meet them or pass them in the street like I do, then you may have noticed we all have different hands and may have experienced an injury. Amputated fingers are a common injury, unfortunately.  We answer some of the common questions here.

  

What is an amputation?

Partial finger amputations are very common. They can occur at any level in the finger and can result from a number of different things including:

  • Trauma- such as circular saw, chainsaw, sharp knives etc
  • Tumour removal
  • Surgical amputation to improve function following a previous finger injury

How have the surgeons closed my finger?

In all cases the surgeon will try to save as much of the finger as possible to ensure the best functional outcome. The surgeon will also consider the resulting sensation or feeling that you will receive in your new fingertip.

Sometimes the skin will be long enough to close directly over the bone. In other cases, the surgeon may use a flap of skin, arteries and nerve from other parts of the hand to close the finger. Other times, the wound can be left to heal itself with the use of appropriate dressings that facilitate healing of the open area.

What will hand therapy involve?

After your surgery it is strongly recommended that you attend hand therapy. The hand therapist will provide you with the following:

  • Wound care
  • Oedema management
  • Scar management
  • Protective splinting while wound is healing if required
  • Exercise program to ensure the best functional outcome for your hand
  • Strategies to improve the appearance of the new finger tip
  • Strengthening program
  • Desensitisation program
  • Sensory retraining

How long until I can use my finger?

Light functional use of your finger is often encouraged as soon as your wounds are on track to healing. This will help to prevent joint stiffness and hypersensitivity of your new tip. Remember to take the advice of your therapist prior to commencing functional use.

Will I gain feeling back in the end of my finger?

The aim of surgery is to provide you with the best possible chance at regaining feeling and function in your finger. It can take months for your finger tip to gain sensation back. Some people do not regain full feeling in their finger.

As the new nerves grow they send mixed messages to your brain. This can be disturbing or painful for people. Hand therapy can offer advice about how to settle the sensitivity and help to regain normal feeling.

What else should we be aware of?

We see many clients each year with amputations.  These can range from losing the tip of a finger, losing a whole finger, or losing more than one finger on the hand.  It can be distressing and we find that often people have flashbacks about the injury, or find it hard adjusting to their new look.  We encourage people in this situation to talk to their therapist, family, or doctor about how well they are coping.

If you come across someone with an amputation, be mindful to how they may be adjusting to their injury.

Amy Geach, Occupational Therapist