What used to be fiction is now becoming fact for countless people who’ve lost an arm, hand or finger through a catastrophic injury. Under the right circumstances surgeons may be able to re-attach the amputated part.
“Microvascular surgery is a very dynamic field. And there are new implants that are used such as nerve tubes, there are techniques like grafting veins to arteries and there are various skin coverage procedures that be done that can enhance the survivability of an amputated digit,” says Dr. Dennis Sagini, orthopedic hand surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
These medical advances give doctors a better chance of success. But the decision to attempt the procedure isn’t clear-cut.
“After a re-plantation most individuals will have 6 to 9 months of therapy and during that 6 to 9 months of therapy someone can have increase of pain during to the nerve injury, cold intolerance due to the nerve injury, stiffness due to the tendons having to be repaired and they may have to go back for multiple surgeries to release the scar tissue that’s formed form this injury. Another individual who has the same injury can have a cosmetic amputation and already return back to work within 3 months,” says Dr. Sagini.
Not all replantations have happy endings. Fingers may be painful and less functional. In general, the best chance for success is when the amputation is between a joint and cleanly cut, not crushed or torn. Children tend to do better than adults.
“Whenever we have a child who has an amputated digit we always attempt to fix that amputated digit because children’s tissues have a high success rate with healing,” says Dr. Sagini.
Thanks to medical advances, people who’ve lost a piece of themselves may have a better chance for a successful reunion.