When you lose a part of your hand, you may feel like you have lost part of your ability to do everyday tasks. The advances in prostheses can allow users to regain the complex functions of the hand.
Partial-hand or finger amputation due to an accident is extremely common. Each year approximately 30,000 adults and children are rushed to the emergency room for losing one or more fingers. You may have also lost a finger or hand to a medical condition such as diabetic neuropathy or cancer.
This guide serves as an entry point to what you can expect as a new partial-hand or finger amputee.
How will losing fingers or part of a hand affect my remaining fingers?
Losing fingers or part of a hand may reduce the strength and flexibility of your remaining fingers. because the tendons that flex our fingers do not work completely independently of one another. When you lose part of your hand, the scarring of the affected tendons can subtly reduce the function of other tendons in the hand.
Depending on the injury, a surgeon may be able to remove the constriction, damaged tendon to allow the remaining fingers to retain more of their original strength and function.
How long is the recovery process?
Most patients can return to normal function 6-8 weeks after injury if they are dedicated to their recovery.
After the initial healing of the wound, you can expect to experience pain, swelling, and stiffness in the hand. These will subside over time when you follow the advice of the doctor.
It is important to begin rehabilitation as soon as possible after amputation to prevent atrophy in the rest of the hand and/or remaining finger.
Your rehabilitation sessions will help with the following:
- Ensuring the residual limb heals properly;
- Preserving sensitivity in the residual limb;
- Preserving the function of residual fingers;
- Preventing the lessening of function in other fingers; and
- Learning to use a prosthesis.
Will I still be able to perform intricate tasks?
While modern finger prostheses and partial-hand prostheses can allow for complex tasks, you can still expect to lose some of the complex functions of the hand.
The function of your remaining hand will also depend on which fingers were lost:
- Thumb: Provides opposition and stability, and accounts for 40-50% of hand function.
- Index Finger: Provides stability and balance.
- Middle Finger: Allows for cupping actions and supports the index finger.
- Ring Finger: Provide grip along with the little finger.
- Little Finger: Provides grip along with the ring finger.
There are various types of partial-hand prostheses and finger prostheses to help restore lost the full ability of your hand.
When will I be fitted for a prosthesis?
You will usually be able to start using a prosthesis when your residual limb is fully healed, but this will be under the discretion of your doctor and a prostheticist.
In some cases, you may even be fitted for a prosthetic before to provide protection to the residual limb while going through rehab.
What types of partial-hand and finger prostheses are available?
There are many types of partial-and and finger prostheses available. They range from being simple non-bendable replacements for part of a missing finger to complex body-powered and electric options that help you regain complex function.
The Categories of Partial-Hand and Finger Prosthetic Devices Are:
- Passive functional: A device designed to resemble the missing parts of the hand. Do not move, but provide support in pushing, pulling and holding objects.
- Activity-specific: Prosthetic devices to switch in an out to help with various tasks.
- Body-powered: Complex prostheses that be manipulated using residual fingers or the forearm.
- Externally powered: Myoelectric prostheses that work by interpreting signals from the brain to the residual limb.
How do I manage hypersensitivity and cold intolerance in my residual hand or fingers?
Our fingers and hands have a high density of nerves to allow us to properly interpret touch. Some partial-hand or finger amputees experience extreme hypersensitivity and cold intolerance in the amputation area.
Both of these sensations tend to be intense during rehabilitation, but tend to improve over time. When the problem persists, you may be prescribed desensitization therapy which involves therapeutic exposure to different textures and sensations to get the body used to these new sensations.
In cases where these sensations do not improve naturally, you may also be prescribed medication.
Resources for struggling emotionally with amputation
Losing a limb can be a traumatic experience as you learn to navigate the world again with modified ability. You may also have post-traumatic stress as a result of the loss.
We have provided a full guide to the emotional impact of amputation and recovery to help with your journey.
You may find that speaking with other amputees about their journey will help you regain confidence and emotional well-being. Consider searching for an amputee support group in your area, or request a one-on-one visit from one of our certified peer visitors.
Thank you to Naked Prosthetics, who’s mission is to positively impact the lives of people living with digit amputation by providing fully articulating, high-quality finger prostheses, for allowing us to use the image in this blog post.