The injury – called ring avulsion – occurred when Fallon tripped on a rug at home and snagged his ring on a countertop as he fell. The digit was bent completely sideways and required six hours of intricate surgery, including a vein transplant from his foot. Doctors were able to save the finger.
Although Fallon made the injury seem like it wasn’t a big deal, ring avulsion can be serious, resulting in possible amputation of the finger.
Here’s what happened.
“My ring got caught on the countertop, got stuck there, and pulled my finger off!” explained Fallon during his Monday evening broadcast. “I’m getting up and my finger is sideways. It looks completely fake, like a cheap horror movie where you see a broken finger – that’s what it looks like.”
The Three Grades of Ring Avulsion
“When a standard wedding ring is caught on something, chances are the skin and tissue will fail long before the ring,” said Bill Gowski, MD, a hand and microvascular surgeon at TOSH – The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray, Utah.
“In a ring avulsion, the ring acts like a tourniquet and pulls tissue or skin off the finger. The injury can range from discoloration of the finger due to internal damage of the tissue, or complete removal of skin and tissue from the bone, known as de-gloving,” added Dr. Gowski.
Low Grade – The finger received some trauma and may experience swelling. However, there is blood flow to the finger, so treatment typically involves placing a splint and letting the injury heal.
Medium Grade – During the fall, the artery in the finger was stretched and the inner layer of the artery is damaged, causing the blood to clot and restrict blood flow into the finger. Treatment would require an artery graft to replace the damaged one and restore blood flow to the finger.
High Grade – The ring may actually de-glove the finger bone, removing skin and tissue completely off of the bone. In this instance, amputation is highly likely.
Life After a Ring Avulsion Injury
If you suffer a ring avulsion, you should go to the emergency room so the injury can be evaluated and graded appropriately. You may be referred to a hand specialist who can evaluate and provide the best treatment option based on the grade of the injury.
People who suffer a medium grade injury should get back 80% of the sensation in the finger, but physical therapy may be required to get back the full range of motion in the finger.
“In many cases, having a stiff finger long term is a likely outcome,” said Dr Gowski. “Jimmy may have trouble playing the guitar like he used to. The extent of recovery is typically dependent upon the severity of the initial injury. With therapy and the passage of time, he may be able to get the finger back to normal, but at the very least I would expect some minor deficits in motion and/or sensation.”