Repairing Crushed or Severed Fingers / Thumb
Work-related hand injuries are the most common type of work injury in Australia. Every year, around 8,400 Australians are admitted to hospital due to hand injuries, the most severe being crushed or severed fingers or thumb (digits).
Dr McLean’s focus is on providing the appropriate treatment to restore function, relieve pain and regain mobility. He uses minimally invasive methods wherever possible to achieve the most favourable outcomes.
Repairing crushed fingers or thumbs
The type of surgery required for a crushed hand depends on the type of damage and its severity. Surgical repairs for fractures, nerve or artery injuries, or tendon injuries are commonly needed for moderate to severe hand injuries.
These surgeries are preferably performed within 24 hours of the injury, as early surgery is associated with better outcomes.
Reattaching severed fingers or thumbs
Replantation refers to the surgical reattachment of a body part (such a finger or thumb) that has been severed from the body. Replantation surgery aims to reattach the injured part and restore as much function to it as possible.
In fingers or thumbs that have been crushed, sometimes replantation isn’t possible. In these cases the missing body part is normally shortened.
What happens during a hand repair procedure?
Typically surgery for a hand crush injuries or a severed digit involves removing damaged tissue and repairing any nerves or tendons that have been impacted. In replantation, bone ends are trimmed before they are rejoined.
Muscles, tendons, arteries and nerves are stitched together where possible. Uncovered joints, tendons or nerves may be covered by a piece of tissue removed from another part of the body and transferred to the injured area.
Recovery after hand surgery
Recovery largely depends on the extent of your injury and surgery required, as well as the regrowth rate of sensory and motor nerves. Sensory nerves carry messages to the brain to signal pain, pressure and temperature. Motor nerves carry messages between the brain and muscles to create movement. As nerves grow about 2 centimetres each month, a good indicator of recovery time is the length of the injury itself.
Rehabilitation after hand or finger surgery
Complete healing of the surgical wound and the injury itself is only the beginning of the rehabilitation process. Physical therapy and temporary bracing are used to protect and strengthen the damaged tendons and prevent scar tissue from building up.
Dr McLean provides a detailed exercise regime as part of his patients’ recovery process.
Filing a WorkCover claim for your hand injury
If you are injured at work, a Return-To-Work representative oversees the management of your injury. The process for reporting your injury and making a WorkCover claim differs slightly in each Australian state, so visit your state’s Return-To-Work (WorkCover) ‘making a claim’ webpage to make sure you are following the right procedure according to your state’s legislative requirements.
Related content: Work Cover Claims
Returning to work after a hand or finger repair
Getting back to work promotes a quicker recovery and is generally more therapeutic than recovering at home. Return-To-Work liaise with you, your employer, Dr McLean and any other people involved in your recovery process, to help achieve a positive return to work as soon as reasonably possible.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may participate in a return to work program that involves light duties to begin with, building up to your full capability in your old role or a suitable similar role.
The sooner you start planning your return to work, the better your chances are of a positive outcome. Maintain open and regular communication with WorkCover, Dr McLean and your employer to ensure a quick and successful return.
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Creating a suitable duties plan
If you are unable to return to your normal work tasks and duties, Return-To-Work will develop a suitable plan to help you stay at,or return to work, as quickly as reasonably possible. The rehabilitation process may include changing your duties or moving you into a different area of the business. It may also involve identifying alternative hours and days for you to work as you gradually build up your strength again.
A suitable duties plan takes into account your current work capacity, Dr McLean’s medical advice, and your individual situation.