Fingertip Amputation: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Fingertip amputation is a common injury. Treatment depends on how much skin, tissue, bone, and nail were damaged and how much of your finger or thumb was cut off. The doctor may have put stitches in your finger. You may need to see a hand surgeon for more treatment.

Your fingertips have many nerves and are very sensitive, so the injury may be very painful. Recovery can take several weeks. Your finger may be sensitive to cold and painful for a year or more.

You probably will have a splint to protect your finger as it heals. It is very important that you wear the splint exactly as your doctor tells you. Wearing a splint may interfere with your normal activities. Ask for help with daily tasks if you need it.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor put a splint on your finger, wear the splint exactly as directed. Keep the splint dry. Do not remove it until your doctor says you can.
  • Keep the cut dry for the first 24 to 48 hours. After this, you can shower if your doctor says it is okay. Pat the cut dry.
  • Don't soak the cut, such as in a bathtub. Your doctor will tell you when it's safe to get the cut wet.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your cut, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, wash around the cut with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the cut with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
    • Prop up the sore hand on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
    • Avoid any activity that could cause your cut to reopen.
    • Do not remove the stitches on your own. Your doctor will tell you when to come back to have the stitches removed.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Your doctor may remove your bandage after several days. Or your doctor may have you remove the bandage at home. Do not touch the area with stitches. Keep it dry.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • The skin near the wound is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • The wound starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • Your wound comes open.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the wound.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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