Home About Journal AHEAD OF PRINT Current Issue Back Issues Instructions Submission Search Subscribe Blog    

Users Online: 151 
Print this page  Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size 

 Table of Contents    
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 725-727
High-pressure injection injury of the finger

Department of Plastic Surgery, NMC Specialty Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication3-Dec-2012


The high-pressure injection injuries are unusual injuries and the extent of tissue damage is often under estimated. They represent potentially disabling forms of trauma and have disastrous effects on tissues if not treated promptly. We present a case of high pressure injection injury to the finger from lubricant oil. The patient presented late with necrosis of volar tissue of left index finger. The patient was aggressively managed in stages, with delayed flap cover, with satisfactory functional and aesthetic outcome.

Keywords: High-pressure injury, injection injury, finger

How to cite this article:
Saraf S. High-pressure injection injury of the finger. Indian J Orthop 2012;46:725-7

How to cite this URL:
Saraf S. High-pressure injection injury of the finger. Indian J Orthop [serial online] 2012 [cited 2020 Jan 23];46:725-7. Available from:

   Introduction Top

High pressure injection (HPI) injuries to the hand are relatively uncommon. They are caused by high-pressure guns emitting jet streams at pressures exceeding thousands of psi (pound force per square inch). This extreme pressure forces the material through poorly distensible digital or palmar tissues and leads to diffusion along fascial planes, tendon sheaths, and neurovascular bundles with resultant significant damage.1 The most commonly injected materials in HPI injury to the hand include paint, automotive grease, solvents, and diesel oil.2-4 The injected material has deleterious effects in many ways including direct toxic effect of the involved chemical, ischemia, high-velocity mechanical impact, secondary infection, and raised pressure into the closed digital space.5-10 Early recognition and treatment of these injuries is important as delay may result in compromised function of the hand or even the amputation of a digit.2,10-12

   Case Report Top

A 57 year-old man presented with a painful, swollen, and discolored left index finger. The patient had sustained a high-pressure injection injury by lubricant injector (pressure being around 5000 psi) a week ago. There was a small puncture wound just proximal to the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint crease with surrounding induration along with loss of sensations and compromised vascularity of the volar skin, distal to the proximal interphalangeal [PIP] joint crease [Figure 1]a. The capillary refill was found to be sluggish and the oxygen saturation [SpO 2 ] probe showed no signals. The X-ray of the finger was suggestive of soft-tissue swelling with no radio opacities. The patient was aggressively managed in stages. First, the wound was explored with Brunner's zig-zag incision with immediate decompression and debridement of necrotic tissue and foreign material. The wound was left open and dressed. After 2 days, a second look was given and further debridement of the non-viable volar tissue was done [Figure 1]b. The resultant volar defect with exposed tendons on the left index finger was covered by a superior based abdominal flap [Figure 2]a. The flap was delayed after 3 weeks, with final insetting after 6 days, with satisfactory result [Figure 2]b. At 3 months follow-up, the flexion at DIP and PIP joints was satisfactory allowing the patient to return to his pre injury occupation [Figure 2]c.
Figure 1: (a) Clinical photograph of the left index fi nger depicting a small puncture wound just proximal to the distal interphalangeal joint crease with surrounding induration along with loss of sensations and compromised vascularity of the volar skin, distal to the proximal interphalangeal joint crease. (b) The wound was explored with a Brunner's zig-zag incision. The photograph shows the resultant volar defect with exposed tendons after fi nal wound debridement

Click here to view
Figure 2: (a) Clinical photograph depicting coverage of the volar defect over the left index fi nger by superior based abdominal fl ap and (b) the resultant fi nal appearance and (c) function at 3 months.

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

The exact incidence of HPI injuries is difficult to assess, but the incidence could be significant, given the widespread use of pressure machinery in industry. Over a hundred cases of HPI injuries involving hand have been documented in the literature. The first reported case was described by Hesse (1925) and Rees (1937) published the first case involving diesel fuel.13,14

The HPI injuries typically occur to the nondominant hand, and the index finger is the usually affected site. The palm and middle finger are next most frequently injured.2, 10, 15 The point of entrance is often deceptively small [Figure 1]a.

In HPI injuries to the hand, the foreign materials are accidentally injected under a high injection pressure of 141-703 kg/cm2.16 The morbidity is dependent to a large extent upon the type of material injected. The most commonly injected materials are automotive grease, diesel oil, paint and other solvents.2-4 The severity is related to the nature, pressure, volume, viscosity, anatomical level of injection, toxicity of the injected substance, secondary infection and the time interval between the injury and management.6, 10, 12

The chemical properties of the injected material have a profound effect. In high-viscosity substances, such as grease and oil-based compounds, dispersion is less marked compared with more fluid materials. Low-viscosity solvents, such as paints and paint thinners produce the most severe inflammatory responses and more damage because of rapid lipid dissolution and destruction of tissues.10,17 They are associated with a high incidence of subsequent amputation. Grease and oil based compounds may lead to oleogranulomas with chronic fistula formation, scarring, and eventual loss of digit function.2, 6, 17

Various mechanisms have been used to explain the effects of HPI injuries. They include the direct toxic effect of the involved chemical, ischemia, necrosis from high-velocity mechanical impact, and infection.5-7,10 Factors contributing to digital ischemia include massive vessel thrombosis from volatilization of the injected material, temporary vascular spasm, venous outflow obstruction, and digital artery compression from compartment effect.8 The chemical toxicity has been considered as a significant mechanism of tissue damage, more than the ischemia. In the digits, amputation rates are reported to be as high as 48%.2,10

The early treatment of these injuries is mandatory, with decompression and evacuation of the foreign material from the digits. The associated medical management includes tetanus toxoid, broad-spectrum antibiotics and analgesics. The role of steroids is not well defined, but they are used as an adjunct, which has been suggested for severe cases. [10],[18] If a digit is initially cool or poorly perfused, early amputation might have to be considered. [10],[19] The Esmarch bandage should be avoided during surgery for homeostasis as the pressure disseminates the foreign material further. The patient should be operated under general anesthesia and digital or local nerve blocks are contraindicated. The use of solvents other than isotonic sodium chloride solution for irrigation of wound is not recommended. [5],[20] Soft tissue reconstruction, capsulotomy, neurolysis, and tenolysis might need to be considered to restore maximal function. [10]

In cases of involvement of tip of index finger and the thumb, restoration of the tip sensation by a sensate flap might need to be considered. Lastly, regular follow-up and early intensive rehabilitation is a must to achieve optimal functional outcome. To conclude, HPI injuries are surgical emergencies that demand prompt diagnosis and treatment. The early recognition and management of condition is the key to successful management.

   References Top

1.Agha FP. High-pressure paint gun injuries of hand: Clinical and roentgen aspects. N Y State J Med 1978;78:1955-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Schoo MJ, Scott FA, Boswick JA Jr. High-pressure injection injuries of the hand. J Trauma 1980;20:229-38.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Peters W. High-pressure injection injuries. Can J Surg 1991;34:511-3.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Gutowski KA, Chu J, Choi M, Friedman DW. High-pressure hand injection injuries caused by dry cleaning solvents: Case reports, review of the literature, and treatment guidelines. Plast Reconstr Surg 2003;111:174-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Kaufman HD. High pressure injection injuries, the problems, pathogenesis and management. Hand 1970;2:63-73.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Dickson RA. High pressure injection injuries of the hand: A clinical, chemical and histological study. Hand 1976; 8:189-93.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Craig EV. A new high-pressure injection injury of the hand. J Hand Surg 1984;9:240-2.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Sirio CA, Smith JS Jr, Graham WP 3rd. High-pressure injection injuries of the hand: A review. Am Surg 989;55:714-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Curka PA, Chisholm CD. High-pressure water injection injury to the hand. Am J Emerg Med 1989;7:165-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Lewis HG, Clarke P, Kneafsey B, Brennen MD. A 10-year review of high-pressure injection injuries to the hand. J Hand Surg 1998;23:479-81.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Ramos H, Posch JL, Lie KK. High-pressure injection injuries of the hand. Plast Reconstr Surg 1970;45:221-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Hogan CJ, Ruland RT. High-pressure injection injuries to the upper extremity: A review of the literature. J Orthop Trauma 2006;20:503-11.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Hesse. Die chirurgische und gerichtichmedizinische bedeutung der kunstlich hervogerufenen erkrankungen. Arch Klin Chir 1925;136:277-91.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Rees CE. Penetration of tissue by fuel oil under high pressure from a diesel engine. JAMA 1937;109:866-7.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Karlbauer A, Gasperschitz F. High-pressure injection injury: A hand-threatening emergency. J Emerg Med 1987;5:375-9.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Gelberman RH, Posh JL, Jurist JM. High-pressure injection injuries of the hand. J Bone Joint Surg Am 1975;57:935-7.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Vasilevski D, Noorbergen M, Depierreux M, Lafontaine M. High-pressure injection injuries to the hand. Am J Emerg Med 2000;18:820-4.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Bottoms RW. A case of high pressure hydraulic tool injury to the hand, its treatment aided by dexamethasone and a plea for further trial of this substance. Med J Aust 1962;49:591-2.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Lewis RC Jr. High-compression injection injuries to the hand.Emerg Med Clin North Am 1985;3:373-81.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Fialkov JA, Freiberg A. High pressure injection injuries: an overview. J Emerg Med 1991;9:367-71.  Back to cited text no. 20

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Saraf
Department of Plastic Surgery, NMC Specialty Hospital, Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5413.49384

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Case Report
   Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded67    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal