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Degloving: A Reason to Take Off Your Wedding Ring

You may never have heard of ring avulsions or “degloving” before it happened to Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. FYI: Don’t Google it!

What causes a ring avulsion?

A ring avulsion occurs when a ring gets caught on an object, such as a piece of machinery or fence, and is suddenly pulled. Injuries can range from skin tears or abrasions to an amputated finger, but thankfully this type of injury is rare. Here’s what you should know to prevent this injury from happening to you.

How are ring avulsions treated?

Ring avulsions can range from minor to major and from mild bruising to even the loss of finger.

“Treatments for degloving injuries depend on the severity,” said Moneesh Bhow, MD, emergency medicine medical director at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix. “Your surgeon will grade your injury in three classes based on circulatory status,” Bhow said. These include:

  • Class 1: There is still blood flow through the hand and injured finger. You may only require minor skin and tissue or bone repair.
  • Class 2: There is no blood circulation through the injured finger. Your surgeon will need to reconnect blood vessels before repairing the bone or tissue.
  • Class 3: The most serious case, where your finger is completely stripped of tissue or is cut off. Your surgeon may have to reattach the finger and vessels, and you may risk permanent finger loss or damage.

“Depending on the severity of your case, you could have several months of healing ahead of you, along with physical and occupational therapies,” Bhow said.

Who’s most at risk?

If you wear rings, you’ll always have some chance of a risk. Whether you wear a wedding ring or are making a fashion statement, anyone who wears a ring could potentially be at risk for a degloving injury. That said, most often these injuries occur to those dealing with machinery or active careers, such as police officers, first responders, the military or food services.

How do you prevent ring avulsions?

Simply put, the easiest way to prevent injury is to not wear rings. If this isn’t an option, Dr. Bhow recommends that rings should be properly fitted and taken off while exercising, playing sports or when around machinery or heavy equipment. There are also several inexpensive silicone or break-away rings on the market today if you don’t want to forgo wearing one.

What should I do if it happens to me?

If you or someone around you experiences a ring avulsion injury, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

If the finger is still intact but is bleeding, apply pressure to the affected area with a clean cloth or bandage and keep the hand elevated to reduce swelling. If the finger has been amputated, do not drive yourself to the hospital. Call for an ambulance or have someone take you. While you wait, clean the finger, wrap it in moist gauze, seal it in a clean plastic bag and keep the bag on ice until you reach the hospital. Don’t put the finger directly on ice.

If you or someone you know experienced ring avulsion and is having complications from treatment, contact a Banner Health doctor to discuss the different surgical and therapy options available to you.

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