What is Finger Avulsion – And How to Treat It

When a person sustains injury to their finger while wearing a ring, the potential exists for incredibly serious consequences. When a ring is forcefully pulled through the soft tissue of an injured finger – removing the skin – a condition called finger avulsion can occur. Finger avulsion, while rare, can result in significant damage, raging from a simple contusion to traumatic amputation.

Perhaps the most famous case of finger avulsion was sustained by The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon in 2019. Fallon’s injury brought awareness to the severity of finger avulsion, and serves as a reminder of the condition’s severity.

In this article, board certified Macomb County hand specialist Dr. Uzma Rehman discusses the details of finger avulsion, including how this uncommon-but-serious condition is treated.

Causes of Finger Avulsion

Finger Avulsion is usually occupational (work related), but can also be caused by recreational activities – or even a “freak accident” while doing normal daily activities such as gardening or chores.

Finger avulsion can be caused by a wide range of factors. While knives, power tools, and food slicers are among some of the most obvious causes, finger avulsion can also be caused by car doors, lawn mowers, exercise equipment, and other less-obvious factors.

Jimmy Fallon’s Finger Avulsion

Because the condition is very rare, many people had never heard of “finger avulsion” until popular late night host and SNL alum revealed on the air that it had happened to him in 2019.

Fallon’s injury occurred after tripping on a rug in his kitchen. As he fell to the floor, his ring became caught on the countertop, pulling a significant amount of tissue off his finger in the process. Initially, Fallon believed he had simply broken his finger, and would only be made aware of his finger avulsion after a doctor’s examination.

In order to save his finger, Fallon’s finger avulsion necessitated doctors perform emergency micro-surgery, which lasted roughly six hours. The procedure involved removing a vein from his foot and transplanting it to his injured finger, and left the comedian in the ICU for 10 days.

While Fallon’s finger avulsion resulted in 8 weeks with no feeling in his finger, he has now made a full recovery. Cases like Jimmy Fallon’s remind us that, in the care of a skilled surgeon like board certified hand expert Dr. Rehman, finger avulsion does not have to permanently compromise the patient’s hand.

Treating Finger Avulsion

Jimmy Fallon eventually recovered from this extremely serious injury, thanks to the immediate and ongoing care of some of the country’s best hand specialists. This is why rapid intervention by an experienced, board certified hand surgeon like Macomb County’s Dr. Rehman is essential to have a chance at saving the finger and preserving function and mobility.

If a finger avulsion injury is larger than a quarter inch by a quarter inch, the skin and blood vessels may not grow back. For this reason, injuries this size or larger must immediately be evaluated by a doctor. While it most likely not be reattached, patients should try to recover the piece of skin that was cut off if they are able. Whether or not the doctor is able to reattach it, it will provide more information about the specifics of the injury; contributing to the patient’s care.

Small or minor avulsion injuries are usually treated stitching the edges of the wound together, if the wound is small. But in more serious finger avulsions microsurgery – which typically involves grafting veins and grafting skin – is the best and only option.

Unlike adults, children – particularly preadolescents – tend to heal extremely well from complete or partial finger avulsion. Very young children have a remarkable ability to regenerate skin in injured areas. But adults suffering from finger avulsions are typically in for several weeks of recovery, like Jimmy Fallon.

Preventing Finger Avulsion

A gruesome finger avulsion can be prevented in many case with proper safety precautions – rings must be removed from the finger before working with machinery, power tools, activities involving forceful use of the hands, or in any other situations that puts a person at risk. However, some “freak accidents” are unavoidable – in which case immediate treatment  by a board certified hand surgeon like Dr. Rehman is crucial to save the finger and preserve its function.

Finger Avulsion Hand Surgeon – Macomb County

If you suspect you have suffered a finger avulsion injury, it is of the utmost importance that you visit a hand specialist like Dr. Rehman for examination. Dr. Rehman will then create a specialized treatment plan designed to restore hand function, relieve symptoms, and avoid long term complications, and prevent deformity or loss of the finger.

Macomb County Finger Avulsion Hand Surgeon: 586.532.0803