Fingertip injuries are very common and can occur anywhere and during any activity such as swinging a mallet, using a saw, crushing your hand in a door or pinching a fingertip while moving a heavy object.
Fingertips are full of nerves which make them extremely sensitive. Without prompt and proper treatment, a fingertip injury can cause problems with hand function and may result in permanent deformity or disability. To ensure the best outcome, it is important to have a hand specialist examine your finger after an injury.
An injury can damage any part of the fingertip including: skin and soft tissue, fingertip bone or nail and underlying nail bed.
To assess your fingertip injury, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history and what happened when you injured your finger, have you describe your symptoms and conduct a physical examination.
If pieces of the finger are completely detached from the rest of the hand, please place them in a bag and on ice and take them with you. Sometimes the pieces can be reattached. Wrap the rest of the finger is saline soaked gauze. If there is active bleeding you can control the bleeding with pressure while you seek medical attention.
Depending on the injury the nail may or may not grow back. This is difficult to assess at the time of injury. In some cases the fingernail will grow back with a deformity that may be able to be corrected with a short outpatient procedure.
Fingertip injury treatment
Depending on the amount of tissue involved the fingertip will either be closed primarily or allowed to close secondarily. If bone is exposed it may be shortened slightly to allow for soft tissue coverage. If there is not enough skin to close the wound, sometime a skin graft or regional flap is necessary with minimal disturbance to the rest of the hand. In some cases the fingertip bone will need to be pinned temporarily. Although the nerves in the fingertip are too small to be repaired, there can often be chronic pain after a fingertip amputation or crush injury.
Typically fingertip amputations can heal in two to four weeks. Sometimes hand therapy is necessary to get the finger moving fully after a severe injury.
Learn more about hand, wrist and elbow treatment at OrthoIndy.