Many crossbows are designed without thumb-guards. Unfortunately, dozens of hunters have been severely injured when their fingers extended above the rail when the bow was fired, resulting in an instantaneous amputation.
Crossbows and Finger & Thumb Amputations
Some of the most powerful crossbows are designed to fire an arrow at 350 feet per second or more. They tend to be front-heavy, making it comfortable to hold the stock with a thumb or finger extending above the rail.
Many of these high-powered weapons are also sold without thumb-guards. In the heat of the moment, it is very common to accidentally forget finger position. Unfortunately, any finger in the way of the string will be instantaneously cut off or severely injured.
Immediately After an Amputation
Treatment for a finger or thumb amputation begins with first aid. The severed body part should be wrapped in a clean, damp cloth and placed inside a sealed plastic bag that does not leak. The plastic bag should be submerged in ice water. The fingertip should NOT be placed directly on ice or in water without a protective bag.
Treatment for a finger or thumb amputation depends on the location, size, and angle of the amputation. These treatments may include:
- Minor tissue amputation: Injuries that only involve the skin and flesh at the tip of the finger typically heal within 3-5 weeks.
- Major tissue injury: Injuries involving a large amount of tissue may need stitches to close the wound. In very serious cases, a skin graft from another area of the body may be used to close the wound.
- Bone amputation: Surgery is usually necessary to close the wound. The doctor may also shorten the bone so there is enough flesh to stitch the wound together.
- Skin graft: This treatment involves surgery to remove a healthy part of skin, which is transplanted to the wounded area. In some cases, the graft remains attached to the donor site while it heals over the wound.
- Reattachment: If the severed body part has been preserved, there is a chance that it can be surgically re-attached. However, the procedure is very complex and there is a high chance of complications or rejection.
Immediately after an amputation, the most serious complications involve bleeding and shock. Even with treatment, other complications may include:
- Septic shock
- Poor healing
- Nerve damage
- Loss of sensation
- Increased sensitivity to temperatures
- Decreased sense of touch, texture, temperature, etc.
- Chronic pain or tingling
The long-term prognosis for fingertip amputations is usually very good, with full functionality returning within a few months. Prognosis is worse for people who have lost part of their thumb, a large part of their finger, or multiple fingers. For these patients, appointments with a physical therapist who specializes in hand rehabilitation will be necessary to improve functionality.