Fingertip Injuries

Fingertips are injured frequently. The way we use our hands puts our fingertips at constant risk. Whether it is a young child crushing their fingertip in a door as it closes, or a working man catching his fingertips in heavy machinery, the impact on hand function is the same.

Sometimes the middle fingertip is most at risk because it is the longest. Sometimes it is the thumb and index fingertip, because of the way we use our fingers to pinch and grip objects. The damage to the very specialised tissue of the finger pulp, fingernail and even the bone in the fingertip, can result in a permanent alteration in function.

The first priority after fingertip injury is to clean the wound and assess the structures which have been damaged. This is often done by freezing the finger with an injection of local anaesthetic. Once the extent of the injury is known, a decision can be made about the best treatment.

Many injuries (especially those in children) can be treated by simple dressings - allowing the natural healing processes to repair the damaged tissues. This will take several weeks, and close monitoring is sometimes necessary to spot a developing infection at an early stage.

Some injuries require surgery to repair the nail bed (the soft tissue underneath the fingernail, to restore lost tissue in the finger pulp, or to replace the fingernail back under the nail fold.

Occasionally, the damage to the fingertip is so severe that the finger is shortened to a healthy area of undamaged tissue (terminalisation). Perfectly normal function can still be achieved, although the fingertip will never grow back.

Most fingertip injuries recover well and allow the individual to return to all their previous activities, although the healed tip can be sensitive, especially to the cold weather.

You can get more information on fingertip injuries here