What are avulsions?
Avulsions are wounds where a chunk of tissue (all layers of the skin) has been partially or completely torn away. An amputation is a form of an avulsion.
Avulsions can be minor, such as slamming a finger in a door and crushing the tip, or life-threatening, such as the amputation of an arm or leg in an industrial or motor vehicle accident.
As you can tell from the picture, even a minor avulsion can be pretty ghastly to look at. But if you act quickly, you might be able to save the victim’s finger, toe or limb.
First stop the bleeding
Serious accidents and injuries require assistance. If the victim is bleeding heavily, has lost a limb or is unconscious, call 911.
The wound will most likely be bleeding, so apply direct pressure using sterile gauze or as clean a piece of cloth or clothing as you can find.
Related post: First aid for cuts, scrapes and bruises
Then find the missing piece of tissue
After you find the body part (or that large chunk of skin):
- Don’t try to clean it, but handle it with clean hands, gloves or a cloth to decrease risk of infection.
- Wrap it in sterile or clean gauze and put it in a plastic bag.
- Place that bag on top of some ice—do not put the tissue directly onto the ice as the cold may cause tissue damage.
- Send or take it to the emergency room with the victim.
Practice safety and prevention
Fingers and toes are particularly at risk in home accidents, such as kitchen knives (my husband no longer sharpens my knives), car doors (any door, really), lawn mowers and shop equipment. Use safety precautions and common sense!
Even better, invest in taking a first aid class or at least purchase an up-to-date first aid manual, such as the ACEP First Aid Manual, and a well-stocked first aid kit.
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