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Emergency Department Discharge Instructions

Finger tip amputation

Emergency Care Discharge Instructions

Instruction summary

When wounds are very large, such as in the case of a fingertip amputation (the fingertip is cut off), often the skin cannot be sewn back together. Instead, the wound is left open to heal slowly, which usually takes 2-6 weeks. It may feel numb in the area of the injury because of damaged nerve endings there. The nerves often heal, but this may take a long time.

In the ER, a bulky dressing is often placed on top of the wound to protect it while it is healing. Keep the dressing on and keep it dry for at least 48 hours (two days), or until you are seen in follow-up by either your family doctor or a plastic surgeon, as directed by the emergency physician (follow-up timing and type depends on the type of wound). If you don’t have an early follow-up appointment within a week, you can take the dressing off after 48 hours. Examine the wound for any signs of infection. This includes spreading redness and pus. Monitor your wound either every day or every other day for these signs. Afterward apply Polysporin (or the generic version of Polysporin) to the wound and put a large bandage over it.

To speed up the healing of your wound keep it elevated as much as possible, so that gravity can drain the swelling away from it. For example, keep your hand up as much as you can (like you are the queen and about to wave at your subjects). Keep the area as dry as you can. Don’t immerse your hand in water.

Reasons to return to the ER
  1. Redness around the wound that is spreading
  2. Pus coming out of the wound or excessive soiling of the dressing
  3. Fever (≥38.0 °C or 100.4 °F)
  4. Persistent bleeding from the wound. Try to stop the bleeding by applying pressure for a full five minutes (don’t peak early!)