December 14, 2015

Background: Fingertip amputations are not an uncommon injury seen in the emergency department. Treatment options range from healing by secondary intention to flap coverage or replantation. Selection of the appropriate treatment modality depends on the nature of the injury, the physical demands of the patient, and the patient’s co-morbidities. Prophylactic antibiotic use in patients with fingertip amputations is controversial. The routine use of prophylactic antibiotics is universally recommended on grossly contaminated wounds, in immunocompromised patients, and in injuries with extensively destroyed/devitalized tissue as it is thought the infection risk is high in these circumstances. However, many reflexively prescribe antibiotics prophylactically in all distal tip amputations. Moreover, there is often an underlying tuft fracture and we reflexively give these patients antibiotics because we were all taught that any open fractures require antibiotics in addition to usual fracture care. Prior studies on distal fingertip amputations and the use of prophylactic antibiotics suggest no change in infection risk with the routine use of antibiotics but these studies were small and have done little to inspire an antibiotic-restrictive approach universally.
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