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How to treat a dismembered finger

We all like drama and nothing speaks of ‘edge of your seat’ stuff than dismembered body parts. It may be gruesome and bloody but it adds to the excitement. Too often though what we watch on TV is not true of real life. On TV, you may have seen more than once, severed finger victims, walking into A&E toting a bag full of ice with their damaged finger inside, and the surgeon is then able to dramatically sew the severed digit back onto the patient.

Warning: Myth alert! This is not how you deal with a dismembered finger! Placing a severed body part in ice will do more damage than good. Exposing the amputated part to ice can cause ice burns, making it very difficult for healthcare staff to sew the finger back on.

There is a right way and a wrong way to treat a dismembered finger. Here we show you, in simple steps, the right way.

Step 1:  Using firm pressure, stop the bleeding at the site of the injury. Try to keep the injured hand elevated above the heart level.

Step 2:  Once the bleeding has stopped, clean the wound with water and if available, apply antibacterial cream to reduce the risk of infection. It is good practice to apply ice to the wound and this should be done prior to bandaging.

Step 3: Cover the wound in a sterile bandage. If first aid items are not available, a moist handkerchief will work just as well.

Step 4: Locate the severed finger.  Wrap the finger in damp gauze and place in a watertight bag.

Step 5: Go to the nearest Accident and Emergency department. Take the bag with the damaged finger with you.

Some extra advice

  • Before attempting any remedial action, reassure and calm the victim. This will help to prevent him/her going into shock.
  • Ring 999 if the victim loses consciousness or if the bleeding is persistent and cannot be controlled within 5-10 minutes of steady pressure being applied.
  • If the finger is still partly attached with a blood supply, bandage the severed part carefully in situ, not too tightly, support and elevate the hand before going to A&E.
  • Steps 1 and 3 should be followed in all cases of injured fingers, regardless of any amputation. There may still be a need to seek medical advice if there is numbness, inability to move the damaged part, persistent pain or swelling or bone is exposed.

It may not be the stuff of faced-paced, edge of your seat drama, but following the above advice may help to save someone’s finger!






Emergency first aid for a finger

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ILS went really well thank you. Just to give some feedback, Martin the course trainer was brilliant. I have been on ILS courses before and have found the trainers to be a little full on and not really understand care giving and emergencies outside of acute NHS Hospital trusts. Martin understood the skills (and resources available) of nursing staff working in primary care in independent sectors and the situations that they may face.
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Martin was so nice and lovely he was the best