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smashed fingers

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Alternative Names 
crushed fingers

Smashed or crushed fingers occur when fingers are caught between heavy objects. Trauma may occur to one or more fingers, most often the thumb.

What are the signs and symptoms of the injury? 
The signs and symptoms of smashed fingers include:
  • pain.
  • swelling.
  • bleeding.
  • bruising.
  • change in colour.
  • loss of a fingernail.
  • fracture.
  • loss of a finger.

What are the causes and risks of the injury? 
Fingers can be smashed doing almost any activity. For instance, fingers can get smashed:
  • in a desk drawer.
  • in a car door.
  • playing cricket or most sports.
  • working with a hammer.
  • between pieces of wood or under concrete blocks.
What can be done to prevent the injury? 
To prevent injury:
  • pay attention when getting in and out of the car.
  • pay attention when working with heavy material.
  • use safety devices when appropriate.
  • teach young children about safety techniques.
How is the injury recognised? 
Smashed fingers are usually self-diagnosed. The person shows and explains how it occurred. There may be some bleeding, bruising, swelling and/or redness. If the doctor thinks any of the fingers are broken, an x-ray will be taken.

What are the treatments for the injury? 
In the case of some types of fractures, a doctors may not recommend a splint for broken fingers. It may be better to just tape the finger to another finger.

If there is blood under the fingernail:
  • decrease swelling and relieve pressure by using ice.
  • use over-the-counter drugs, such as paracetamol, to help relieve the pain.
If the pressure under the bloody fingernail becomes too painful, seek medical assistance immediately.

1. Clean the finger with some alcohol or wash with warm, soapy water.

2. Take a needle or safety pin and hold it over an open flame with a pair of pliers until it is very hot.

3. Take the very hot needle or safety pin and touch it to the injured fingernail.

4. Push the end of the needle or safety pin into the fingernail, creating a small hole. Blood should start coming through the small hole. Push the needle or safety pin onto the nail until blood comes out. This will relieve the pressure. Oozing and bleeding from this hole may last 2 to 3 days.

5. Soak the finger in warm soapy water for 20 minutes, 4 times a day until the oozing stops.

6. Repeat the procedure if the hole closes up and pressure comes back.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
If the hot needle or safety pin is pushed too far, it can go into the nail bed. This causes a lot of pain but no permanent damage. Although the risk is small, the hot needle or safety pin may cause an infection.

What happens after treatment for the injury? 
After treatment, the fingernail usually comes off. This can happen quickly or it may take a few weeks. If the fingernail starts to come loose, protect it so that it does not catch on anything. The pain may persist for awhile after treatment.

Over-the-counter drugs, like paracetamol, can help to control the pain. If over-the-counter drugs do not control the pain, seek medical attention.

Author: James Broomfield, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 7/02/2005
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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