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.
Factors that may increase your chance of injury include:
- Having an occupation that requires use of dangerous machinery
- Removing safety guards from machinery, such as power saws or wood chippers
- Using short-cuts and improper technique while using machinery
- Using your hands to remove clogged grass from lawn mowers or snow from snow blowers without shutting off the power
- Operating machinery or vehicles under the influence of alcohol or medications that cause impairment during use
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:
- CT scan
You may need examination under anesthesia to:
- Allow the doctor to closely examine your wound
- Remove 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 medications
- Anesthesia to examine the wound closely
- Antibiotics to prevent a wound infection
Sterile saline is used to clean the wound. This will help prevent infection and further injury.
Immediate surgery may be needed. If the injury is less severe, the hand will be dressed and splinted. A follow-up visit with a hand surgeon will be needed.
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.
Physical therapy will be needed to regain strength and movement in your hand. Occupational therapy may also be needed 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.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Hand Trauma; Hand Injury)
Hand Care—American Society for Surgery of the Hand http://handcare.assh.org
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca
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