Severed Finger: What to Do and When to Reattach

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A severed finger is a serious injury that can significantly change how you use your hands.

Always seek emergency medical care for a severed finger. If you have a finger or thumb that's been cut off, surgeons may try to reattach it. However, not all amputated digits can be reattached. You'll need an immediate evaluation to determine the right treatment for your injury.

This article explains what to do if you have a severed finger. You'll also learn how providers decide if a finger can be reattached or not.

Hands with and amputated finger
JodiJacobson / Getty Images

First Aid for a Severed Finger

If a finger has been cut off, wrap the amputated part of the digit in moist gauze. Keep the finger moist, but not wet or submerged in water. A saltwater solution (saline) is best, but a damp, clean paper towel will also work.

Next, place the wrapped finger in a clean zip-sealing plastic bag or sterile container. Put the bag or container in ice. Do not let the amputated finger directly contact the ice. Do not use dry ice—it is too cold and can permanently damage the tissue of the severed finger.

Call 911 or Go to the ER

You need to get immediate medical care if you've cut off a finger. If fingers have separated from the body for more than 12 hours, they usually cannot be put back on. The time when reattachment is possible is even shorter for injuries farther up the hand or arm. In these cases, surgeons must reattach muscle tissue within 6 hours from the time of injury.

When a Finger Should Not Be Reattached

Surgeons often decide that a finger cannot or should not be reattached. In these cases, the damage is too severe or the location of the injury would make it less likely for reattachment to work.

Crushed, Mangled, Contaminated Fingers

A finger that is crushed, mangled, or dirty (contaminated) usually has had too much tissue damage to make reattachment a realistic possibility. This kind of damage is often seen with injuries from lawnmowers, snowblowers, chainsaws, and farming equipment.

Fingertip Injuries

Fingertip amputations usually do not need to be reattached because the injuries will heal well on their own. In these cases, reattaching the tip of a finger can actually cause more problems than allowing the wound to heal.

Single Finger Injuries

Replanted single-finger amputations often cause more problems than amputated fingers. This is because the goal of reattaching fingers is to restore hand function.

However, a single finger that is cut off, then put back on can get in the way of grasping with the remaining digits. This is especially true if the one severed finger is the index or small finger.

Injuries Too Far up the Finger

Amputations at the finger's base are much harder to recover from than amputations at the mid-level of the finger. Nerve function does not usually come back, which will affect sensation in injuries at the finger's base.

When a Finger Should Be Reattached

There are situations when surgeons make special efforts to reattach a severed finger. These include injuries in children and with thumb or multi-digit amputations.


Children are more likely to heal from an amputated digit than adults. They're also more likely to have good function in a replanted finger. Therefore, surgeons make every effort to reattach severed fingers in kids, especially young children.

Thumbs and Multiple Fingers

The primary goal of reattaching amputated fingers is to restore the ability to grasp. This outcome is most likely to happen if the hand has a thumb and at least two other fingers. If a thumb or multiple fingers are cut off, extra attempts might be made to reattach the severed digits.

Results of Reattaching a Severed Finger

Modern surgical techniques have given finger reattachments high success rates. About 70% of reattached fingers are successful, meaning the finger is usable (viable).

However, even if the finger is usable, it may not function like it used to. There are downsides to having a finger reattached. For example, people with reattached fingers may:

  • Have only about 50% of normal motion
  • Experience significant loss of sensation
  • Have difficulty with cold tolerance

Sometimes, the downsides are better than not having the finger, but not always. Therefore, it's best to only reattach fingers when it's likely to succeed and not reattach if a poor outcome is likely.


Whether you’ve had an amputated finger reattached or not, recovering from the injury will take time. 

In the short term, you’ll be managing pain and preventing the wound from getting infected. Over time, you’ll need to start learning how to use the finger again. 

After your finger has healed, you may still notice changes in how it works and feels (for example, its sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures) for up to a year after the injury. These changes may even be permanent. 

You may find it helpful to work with a physical therapist (PT) or occupational therapist (OT). These professionals are trained to help people learn (or re-learn) how to do daily tasks after an injury.

If you’ve been fitted with a prosthetic for your hand, PT/OT can be very useful as you learn to use it.


If you sever a finger, reattachment might be possible, especially if you take quick steps to preserve the amputated finger and get medical care right away. However, the reattachment of a severed finger is not always a good idea.

In some cases—like when fingers are mangled or crushed, too little or too much of a finger was severed, or only one digit was involved—the injury may not respond well to reattachment. But, in cases where a thumb or multiple fingers are affected, or the injured person is a child, a surgeon is more likely to attempt a reattachment.

A Word From Verywell

If you sever a finger, try to stay calm and work quickly. Have someone collect the severed part of your finger, wrap it, and pack it in ice. Get immediate medical care. Taking these steps sets you up for the best possible outcome and chance of recovery.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.