Mutilating Hand Injuries
(Hand Trauma; Hand Injury)
A mutilating hand injury is severe damage to the hand. It will make it hard or impossible to use 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. It can also decrease the chance of further damage. Serious infections and long term disability can develop without care.
Mutilating hand injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Machine injuries
- Power tool injuries
- Crushing accidents
- Chemical exposure
- Car accidents
- Farming injuries
Factors that may increase your chance of injury include:
- Job that requires use of dangerous machinery
- Removing safety guards from machinery, such as power saws or wood chippers
- Short-cuts and improper technique while using machinery
- Not shutting power to tool when using hands to remove clogged grass from lawn mowers or snow from snow blowers
- Operating machinery or vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Injury to the hand is often obvious. Common symptoms include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Amputation of hand or fingers
- Ripped skin
- Skin loss
- Open wound
- Exposed bone or tendons
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The doctor will quickly assess the injury. The wound will be checked. Nerves and tendons of the hand will be tested.
Image tests will show more detail of the damage. They can show damage to the bones, nerves, tendons, and skin. Tests may include:
Anesthesia may be given. It will block pain so that the doctor can examine the wound more closely.
Immediate care will stop any bleeding. An IV will be started to give fluids and pain medicine. A hand specialist may be needed. Other steps may include:
Bacteria on the skin can enter the body through damaged skin. This can lead to a serious infection called tetanus. If you have not had a recent tetanus vaccination, you may be given one. It will help your body find and attack the bacteria.
Medicine may help in the following ways:
- Pain medicine—to help during recovery
- Anesthesia—to block pain during medical care
- Antibiotics—to prevent an infection
The wound will be flushed out with water. It will help to remove any debris that may be trapped in the wounds. This will help to prevent infection.
Immediate surgery may be needed. Less severe injury will be dressed and splinted. A surgical plan can be made later.
The goal of surgery is to repair as much damage as possible. It may be able to save some function in the hand. Several surgeries are often needed for this type of injury.
Rehab can help to regain movement in the hand. It can also help to make changes if there are some limits to hand movement. Rehab may include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
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.
- Do not put fingers or hands near moving parts of machinery.
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OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Last reviewed January 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH Last Updated: 1/8/2019