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fishhook removal

Removing a fishhook from the skin can be a difficult procedure. There are hundreds of different hook patterns. Hooks vary in size and shape according to their purpose. The parts of a hook include:
  • point, which is the sharpened end of a hook that penetrates the fish's mouth
  • barb, or the projection extending backward from the point of the hook
  • bend, which is the bottom or curved part of the hook
  • shank, or the upper portion of the hook that extends from the bend to the eye
  • eye, or the hole or loop at the end of the shank through which the line is tied
Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
Fishermen are at greatest risk for having a fishhook injury. Common areas of the body to have a fishhook injury are the hands, the face and the head. Occasionally a fisherman will hook a bystander as the line is cast.

How is the procedure performed? 
The area around the fishhook is cleaned. Local anaesthesia can be used to numb the area. The procedure used depends on the location and type of hook. There are 3 techniques for fishhook removal. These include:
  • push and clip technique. The barb of the hook is pushed through the skin. Once exposed, the barb is cut off and the hook is withdrawn.
  • needle over barb technique. A large bore needle, or one with a large opening, is passed through the entrance wound of the hook. The hollow tip of the needle is then placed over the barb, covering its sharp point. The hook is advanced slightly to dislodge the barb from the tissue. Then, the hook and needle are pulled out together through the entrance wound.
  • simple pull technique. This procedure is used for fishhooks that are barely hooked under the skin. A small incision is made to enlarge the entry wound at the site of the barb. The hook is pulled straight out.
"Trouble hooks" are particularly difficult because they have three points and barbs per hook. Special removal techniques are used for these.

What happens right after the procedure? 
An antibiotic ointment should be applied to the area. A band-aid, or gauze dressing should be applied. The person should have a tetanus Injection if he or she has not had one in the last 5 years.

What happens later at home? 
The person may be give antibiotics to help prevent infection. He or she will receive instructions to watch for signs of infection. These signs include redness, swelling, drainage from the wound, pain, and fever.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
Infection is the main complication following a fishhook removal. Deep fishhook injuries to the palm of the hand or fingers are most prone to infection.

Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 2/2/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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