It is the cutting truth. While people hope a severed finger or limb can be sewn back in place, there are misconceptions about what can and can’t be done.
“Many of the re-attachment procedures can be done when there is a clean cut to the extremity. So for example, if somebody is using a machete and cuts through their finger or through their hand an injury like this can be replanted with some success,” says Dr. Dennis Sagini, orthopedic hand surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Less successful are the crushing injuries or animal bites.
“Another individual might have a dog bit in which there’s tearing or ripping or twisting of tissues and loss of tissue. When someone has this type of issue it may be difficult to replant because there is damaged to the tissue,” says Dr. Sagini.
When it comes to the truly catastrophic, for example an alligator attack, you may hear about attempts to salvage the limb for reattachment. Most times it’s not worth the effort.
“The instances in which people have these alligator attacks and expect to have a re-plantation of a limb would be slim to none. The injury is usually a twisting, pulling, tearing injury. And then it goes inside the alligator’s stomach so there is significant contamination. To attempt to re-plant this type of amputation can lead to high chances of infection,” says Dr. Sagini.
What is always worth the effort is an amputation involving a child’s finger.
“We always attempt to fix that amputated digit because children’s tissues have a high success rate with healing,” says Dr. Sagini.
Surgeons also go to great lengths to save a thumb, because it’s important to the hands overall functioning. If multiple fingers are damaged, doctors may relocate one if the chance for surviving elsewhere is better.
“Microvascular surgery is a very dynamic filed and there are new techniques like grafting veins to arteries and various skin coverage procedures that can enhance the survivability of an amputated digit,” says Dr. Sagini.
To put your best foot or finger forward, it’s important to gently wash the amputated part then wrap it in cloth and put it in a plastic bag. Transport the bag in a container of cold water.