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Hand Injuries (cont.)

Hand Injury Diagnosis

Upon arriving at the emergency department or clinic, the medical evaluation may include a medical history and physical examination.

Medical history questions

  • Past medical history (Does the patient have diabetes or arthritis? Does the patient smoke?)
  • Hand dominance (Is the patient right or left handed?)
  • Occupation, extracurricular activities, and hobbies (How does the patient use their hands?)
  • Mechanism of injury (How did the injury occur?)

Physical examination

  • Visual inspection (look at the injury)
  • Sensory nerve exam (feeling)
  • Vascular exam (circulation or blood supply)
  • Muscular and tendon exam (movement and strength)
  • Bone exam (broken bones or dislocated joints)


The doctor may order X-rays after the history and physical exam, if warranted. Certain hand injuries will require X-rays to identify fractures or dislocations or to rule out foreign bodies.

After a thorough evaluation, the diagnosis usually falls within one of these common injury categories.

  • Lacerations
  • Fractures and dislocations
  • Soft tissue injuries and amputations
  • Infections
  • Burns
  • Thermal burns
    • First-degree burn: Superficial, involvement of the outermost layer of skin, characterized by pain, redness, swelling
    • Second-degree burn: Partial skin thickness, characterized by blistering
    • Third-degree burn: Extends completely through all skin layers, characterized by lack of pain and sensation
  • Chemical burns
  • Electric burns
  • Cold injury or frostbite
  • Foreign body
  • High pressure infusion (grease gun, paint gun)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/15/2014
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