Fingertip Injuries and Amputations | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Fingertip Injuries and Amputations

Overview and Facts about Fingertip Injuries and Amputations

Fingertip injuries and amputations can occur in many situations, such as accidents at work, at home, or while playing. Fingertip injury or amputation can cause trauma to different parts of the fingertip, such as:

  • Fingertip bone (distal phalanx)
  • Skin and soft tissue
  • Nail and nailbed

Your fingertips are very sensitive because they are rich with nerves. Immediate treatment by a doctor who can treat this orthopedic condition is needed. If you fail to get your fingertip injury treated promptly, this may cause permanent problems with the function of your finger or hand.

Signs and Symptoms of Fingertip Injuries and Amputations

Signs and symptoms of a fingertip injury may include:

  • Minor tissue injury - In this case, the tip of the finger is still attached, and the bone is not exposed. The pain is mild to severe and blood loss is minimal. There may be damage to the nail or nailbed
  • Larger tissue injury - The wound is large and the bone is exposed. The pain is severe, and there may be major blood loss. Nerve damage may also have occurred
  • Amputation - Here the fingertip is completely detached from the rest of the finger, pain is severe, and there may be major blood loss, as well as nerve damage

Causes and Risk Factors of Fingertip Injuries and Amputations

This type of trauma can involve a tearing injury, a crushing injury, a sharp cut, or a combination of these. A fingertip amputation can result from catching your ring on a nail, slamming your finger in a car door, or from a mishap with sharp tools or machinery at work.

Tests and Diagnosis of Fingertip Injuries and Amputations

In diagnosing a fingertip injury, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and the circumstances of your fingertip injury. The doctor will also examine your finger for missing tissue, exposed bone, and trauma to the nail and nail bed. If it is suspected that you have broken bones, your doctor will order an X-ray.

Treatment and Care for Fingertip Injuries and Amputations

If you have a minor fingertip injury, your doctor will cover it with a protective dressing and explain how to change the bandage regularly. Wearing a splint to protect the injury as it heals may also be suggested. Healing for a minor injury typically takes 2 to 4 weeks. 

If you have a major injury, skin graft surgery may be required. For this procedure, a healthy piece of skin will be taken from somewhere else on your hand, or from your forearm and used to cover the wound.

If your fingertip has been amputated and you have the fingertip, your surgeon will attempt to reattach it, providing that the angle of the cut and the extent of the injury allows reattachment.

For any type of fingertip injury, you may be given anesthesia to block the pain in your finger. You may also have your wound washed and/or be given antibiotics or tetanus shot to prevent infection.