View Full Version : Top of thumb sliced off - will it grow back?

02-05-2001, 06:40 AM
My better half did an incredibly silly thing at the w/end... while slicing a lemon she glanced over at the TV and, well, if you read the title you know what happened next.

She managed to chop off the tip of her thumb. After the initial panic and first-aid, we found the bit of thumb on the blade of the knife. Apologies if this is grossing anybody out.

Anyway, it was only 2 or 3 millimeters of thumb lost and my question is - will it grow back? I'm sure it'll heal up OK - as injuries go it's pretty minor. The question is : Is she going to have a flat-ended thumb for the rest of her life? Or will it grow back into the nice normal rounded shape?

02-05-2001, 06:58 AM
In my experience... yes it'll grow back. I tore the end off my left thumb (about 3/8 inch worth) doing construction many years ago. Amazing how much blood can run out of so small a wound eh? Took a while to heal (couple weeks) but it looks normal now and no residiual effects. If her cut was a clean smooth one though it might make a difference?

02-05-2001, 07:05 AM
Hi, now I am most definitely not a medic, but once working in a kitchen, I was slicing some rye bread on a sort of hand-operated slicing machine, and obviously you can guess what happened next. The reason I add the detail there is that, unless your girlfriend slices lemons with unusual zeal, the chances are that I removed a tiny bit more thumb. Yes, actually, now I remember it, I'm pretty certain I did (and the boss man ever so helpfully picked up a lump of thumb from the floor and handed it to me!) I thought that I would have a most interestingly shaped thumb for ever. But, to answer the question at last, it grew back and looks and feels perfectly ordinary. Admittedly it took a while, but it's a very boring ordinary thumb.

Horribly painful at the time, though, so I'm sorry for your girlfriend.

02-05-2001, 07:21 AM
In my experience, it will grow back. I've torn, cut, grinded parts of my fingers of many many times (construction) and so far my fingers look pretty much the way they did before the injuries.

One exception. Knuckles that have been repeatedly crushed/broken seem to get bigger each time. Seriously. My hands look like they have those big marbles for joints.

02-05-2001, 08:18 AM
Originally posted by dewt
In my experience, it will grow back. I've torn, cut, grinded parts of my fingers of many many times (construction) and so far my fingers look pretty much the way they did before the injuries.

One exception. Knuckles that have been repeatedly crushed/broken seem to get bigger each time. Seriously. My hands look like they have those big marbles for joints.

Yep, me too! (Also construction.) However, my mother did slice the tip of her thumb off several years ago. While it looks fairly normal now, she has lost some sensation there, and sometimes wears one of those little rubber thimbles so she won't drop things. So perhaps it depends how much of the thumb is sliced, or how.

02-05-2001, 09:47 AM
I guess the answer is "it depends. I sliced the end of my thumb off with a razor-sharp knife about 25 years ago. The cut removed about 5-7mm off the tip. Everything healed up OK, the nerves all grew back and it looks reasonably normal- no obvious scar, no obvious misshapeness... except that it is asymetrical to my other thumb. In other words, if you hold the two up and compare them, the damaged one has a less fleshy tip.

Now, since I never bothered to compare my thumbs before this incident, I can't say for sure that the slice 'n dice I did on my thumb is the reason for this difference, however the rest of my fingers seem to symetrical on both hands.

I suspect that if all of the material removed is skin tissue, it will regenerate completely. But, perhaps the regenerative properties of other body tissue is not as effective. So it probably depends on how deep the cut is.

02-05-2001, 10:20 AM
Anat Embryol (Berl) 1987;177(1):29-36

Open finger tip healing and replacement after distal amputation in rhesus monkey with comparison to limb regeneration in lower vertebrates.

The left thumbs and great toes of three 8 1/2 month old Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were amputated in guillotine fashion one millimeter distal to the base of the nail and allowed to heal by the conservative open wound method. Healing occurred in seven to ten days in these small digits. Each of the thumbs and toes grew back with some blunting and shortening of the digit tips, but were functional. The new structures were cosmetically pleasing as in the human instances. The nails grew essentially to normal size and shape supported by the remaining portions of the distal phalanges. Histological studies showed no evidence of blastema formation such as is observed in the regenerating limb of the Urodele (newt) taken as the comparative representative. The possibility of improving the regrowth is discussed against the background of our knowledge of the importance of nerve during limb regeneration in lower vertebrates.

Sounds like science recapitulates the notions presented here concerning finger regeneration.

Side note: I haven't read the entire manuscript, but it may be an example of animal research overkill. I apologize in advance to any that are offended by these investigators' (IMO) overzealous use the animal model.

Dark Lord Davidson
02-05-2001, 10:23 AM
Are there any dopers here who DO have all their thumb??


My dad was slicing butter into a big pot at one time and wasn't paying attention when...SLICE! You guessed it.

Wasn't his thumb, but the tip of his left pointer finger. He sliced a good chunk off, grabbed it, and drove to the hospital where it was re-attached. It healed and looks normal now, but he says it doesn't have much feeling any more.

I know, this post wasn't ANY help, I just felt like telling the story.


Geek Mecha
02-05-2001, 03:12 PM
My dad's a carpet installer, and he frequently uses a sharp utility knife to make his cuts. He's severed fingertips a few times. Some of his slices were thicker than 2-3mm, but they healed up just fine. As long as your SO keeps the wound site clean, Reuben, her thumb should soon be as good as new.

I'd like to add that I find it highly amusing that JoeyBlades posted to this thread... :)

Milton De La Warre
02-06-2001, 12:38 PM
The key is how much you've cut off. I tore up the inner side of the top of my L/H thumb last fall (very stupid table saw accident) and it took about 2 months to close up and look passable. I still don't have full sensation and for some reason it hurts like hell if it gets cold ---like it'd been hit really hard with a hammer. It took 4 or 5 stitches at the time of the accident. It's still scarred up and there are no apparent fingerprints where the injury was. (Note: I highly un-recommend this as a way of evading being ID'ed by fingerprinting. It'd be less painful just to cut your hands off.)

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