A mutilating hand injury is severe damage to the hand. The injury may include damage to bones, tendons, soft tissues, nerves, and skin. It can become a life-threatening condition.
If you have this type of injury, call for medical help right away. Immediate care may result in a better repair and decrease the chance of further damage. Untreated, this can lead to a serious infection.
Mutilating hand injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Machine injuriesPower tool injuriesCrushing accidentsBurnsChemical exposureCar accidentsFarming injuries
Factors that may increase your chance of injury include: Having an occupation that requires use of dangerous machineryRemoving safety guards from machinery, such as power saws or wood chippersUsing short-cuts and improper technique while using machineryUsing your hands to remove clogged grass from lawn mowers or snow from snow blowers without shutting off the powerOperating machinery or vehicles under the influence of alcohol or medications that cause impairment during use
Injury to the hand is obvious. Bone, tendons, skin, nerves, and soft tissue may all be damaged. Common symptoms include: Excessive bleedingAmputation of hand or fingersRipped skinSkin lossOpen woundExposed bone or tendonsPain
Severe Hand Trauma
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When you are brought to the emergency room, a doctor will quickly assess your injury. Your wound will be inspected and your hand’s nerves and tendons will be tested. You will be asked to explain how the injury happened. You will also be asked which of your hands is dominant.
Imaging tests assess damage to the bones, nerves, tendons, skin, or other soft tissues. These may include: X-raysCT scan
You may need examination under anesthesia to: Allow the doctor to closely examine your woundRemove debris or dirt
Immediate treatment is focused on stopping any bleeding. The doctor will make sure your vital signs are stable. An IV will be started to give you fluids and medications. You may be referred to a hand specialist for surgery. Depending on your injury, you may receive the following treatment:
This will protect you from a tetanus infection.
The following types of medication may be given: Pain medicationsAnesthesia to examine the wound closelyAntibiotics to prevent a wound infection
Sterile saline is used to clean the wound. This will help prevent infection and further injury.
You may need to have immediate surgery. If your injury is less severe, your hand will be dressed and splinted. You will have a follow-up visit with a hand surgeon.
The type of surgery necessary depends upon the injury. Examples include fusing damaged joints and reattaching fingers. Often, several surgeries are necessary for this type of injury.
You will likely need physical therapy to regain strength and movement in your hand. You may also work with an occupational therapist to learn how to function with your injured hand.
To help reduce your chance of a hand injury: Do not operate machinery that you are unfamiliar with.Follow all safety instructions when operating tools or machinery. Be especially careful when using snow blowers and lawn mowers. These commonly used tools result in many hand injuries each year.Do not put fingers or hands near moving parts of machinery.
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Snowblower and lawnmower injuries. American Society for Surgery of the Hand Hand Care website. Available at:
http://www.assh.org/handcare/hand-arm-injuries/Snowblower-and-Lawnmower-Injury-prevention. Accessed December 30, 2013.
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Tintinalli’s emergency medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th Ed. United States: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2004; Chapter 268, Injuries to the Hand and Digits.
4/25/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com: Bruno MA, Weissman BN, Kransdorf MJ, et al. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for acute hand and wrist trauma. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/AcuteHandAndWristTrauma.pdf. Updated 2013. Accessed April 25, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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