JOURNAL ARTICLE
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[Management of finger-level avulsion injuries].

BACKGROUND: In avulsion-type injuries of the fingers recovery of blood circulation is one of the major obstacles. The indication for finger reconstruction is discussed controversely, being influenced by the patient's needs, the degree of damage to the soft tissue and the prospects of success of the healing process. In this study we present our results after reconstruction of avulsion-type injuries of the fingers. Indications for finger reconstruction will be assessed in consideration of the expected outcome.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: From 1999 to 2006 we treated 18 patients with finger level avulsion injuries. 15 casualties were caused by rings and three by ropes looped around a digit. The median age at injury was 23 (12 - 66) years. All patients were examined by an independent observer, who did not participate in the operation. Criteria were functional outcome and patient's complaints and satisfaction. Sensibility was evaluated by 2-point discrimination applying the Greulich star. Finger mobility was assessed with the Buck-Gramcko goniometer.

RESULTS: According to the classification of Urbaniak as modified by Kay, 2 patients ranked in class II, 3 in class III and 13 suffered from complete avulsion-amputations (class IV). Of the latter, 8 allowed primary reconstruction of the blood circulation. Two fingers required early or late secondary amputation. After finger reconstruction, patients spent a median time of 18 (12 - 32) days in hospital while primary amputation resulted in a shorter stay of 4 (2 - 5) days. Active motion after replantation in the proximal interphalangeal joint was reduced on average to 64 (25 - 100) degrees. The distal interphalangeal joint nearly ankylosed in all patients following replantation except for one case with an active motion of 40 degrees . Good sensibility could be achieved in one case, protective sensibility in three and none in two patients. All patients with preserved fingers would again decide in favour of finger replantation.

CONCLUSION: In specialised centres replantation of complete avulsion-type finger amputations can be achieved. The decision for or against replantation should only be made after microsurgical assessment of the severed soft tissue and in consideration of the patient's specific demands. With the right indication for reconstruction, the patient's satisfaction often outweighs even poor functional outcomes.

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