Every Halloween season patients come to my office with very unique hand and finger injuries. The top three reasons for these injuries are 1) got attacked by a large pumpkin, 2) not sure, I swear its the pumpkin's fault, and my most favorite, 3) the pumpkin did it!
After carefully explaining that pumpkins do not attack unless provoked, the real story emerges behind missing fingertips and severed hand and finger tendons and it always has to do with carefree pumpkin carving using a regular kitchen knife instead of a less dangerous pumpkin carving kit.
Many of the pumpkin carving induced injuries involve nerves and tendons in the fingers, which may require complex reconstructive surgery and months of physical therapy. It is not uncommon for patients to never regain full finger or hand function due to the severity of their injuries.
Do not use kitchen knives
Whether they are serrated or smooth, kitchen knives are usually very sharp and cut through fingers and hands with ease. Often, they get stuck in the pumpkin and the injury occurs when the knife is coming out of the pumpkin after an attempt to get it dislodged. You should never use a kitchen knife to carve a pumpkin or let your child use a kitchen knife. Instead, invest in an inexpensive re-usable pumpkin carving kit that is kid-friendly. These are available in most stores and include small serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue.
Keep your hand and fingers parallel to the sharp edge of the carving tool
The most common underlying cause of hand and finger injures among my "Halloween" patients is the way they were holding the pumpkin and the carving tool when their injury occurred. Most often, they were holding one side of a pumpkin with one hand, which would find itself in the path of the carving tool in the other hand. Those of you with cuts between your index finger and thumb, in that first web space - I know what you were doing! If you were trying to relieve some of your frustration by stabbing the pumpkin through its face but instead ended up with a cut through your palm, I hope you learned never to hold the pumpkin from behind, in the direct path of the carving tool.
When to call a hand surgeon?
If you cut your finger or hand and have bleeding from a minor cut, this type of bleeding will stop on its own by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, you should call my office or visit the nearest emergency room. Please, do not bring your pumpkin with you!
Dr. Izadi is a hand, wrist, and elbow orthopedic specialist at MD West ONE.