FINGERTIP INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Upper Extremity Injuries are very common in an occupational setting.  Upper Extremity Injuries can include injuries to the fingertip.  Fingertip injuries can involve an amputation.

In the general population, “[i]t is estimated that as many as 45,000 finger amputations are performed in the US per year with an incidence rate of 7.5/100,000 people.” Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

This article will discuss Fingertip Injuries, causes of fingertip injuries, treatment for fingertip injuries, a special workers’ compensation law with respect to amputation cases, and issues relating permanent disability.

What is the Fingertip? Why is It Unique?

 Fingertips are unique. “The tip of the digit comprises virtually all tissue components present elsewhere in the body: skin, bone, joint, synovial membrane, ligaments, tendons, tendon sheaths, arteries, veins, lymphatic channels, nerves, and advanced nervous end organs.” Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

Thus, a traumatized tip can experience a variety of symptoms.  These symptoms and factors of impairment can include tenderness, sensitivity to cold, discoloration, and deformity.   Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

What Are Common Causes of Fingertip Injuries?

Many occupational hand injuries involve metal items.  The metal items can include hand tools which include blades.  On a personal note, I have had fingertip injuries occur on table saws in which safeties have been removed.  Also, I  have had fingertip injuries in which the hand accidentally went into a piece of moving machinery.

Fingertip injuries can also occur as a result of sharps.   Sharps are devices that are used to cut.  These include many items used in the medical field such as auto injectors, connection needles and sets, infusion sets, lancets, needles, and syringes.

Sharp injuries can result in lacerations, amputations, or neurovascular injuries. Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

 What Are Goals of Treatment?

 Treatment goals for fingertip injuries include restoration of sensation of the tip, improving the durability of the tip, and providing for proper bone support to allow for nail growth. Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

What Problems Can Arise from a Fingertip Injury?

Problems arising from fingertip injuries can include deformities, intolerance to cold, skin tenderness, stiffness, and long-term functional loss. Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

How Is a Fingertip Injury Treated?

Due to the complexity and importance of the fingertip, there are many issues that can present.  There are concerns with respect to psychological factors that can present with such injuries.

Also, there may be issues of pain syndromes that can occur as a result of a fingertip injury.  These pain syndromes can even occur in the case of minor contusion. Approach to Fingertip Injuries Patricia Martin-Playa, MD, Anthony Foo, MD* Clin Plastic Surg 46 (2019) 275–283 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cps.2019.02.001

Treatment can include repairing the skin by stiches or glue, skin grafting, reconstruction, composite grafts, flap reconstruction, bone graft, nail complex reconstruction.

Are There Psycho-Social Factors Issues with Fingertip Injuries?

Yes.  Fingertips are an extremely important part of the body.  They are used frequently during the day for a variety of tasks. Fingertip injuries can impact one’s occupation and their participation in hobbies.  For example, a fingertip injury may impact on one’s ability to perform a musical instrument.

Fingertips are usually visible to the public.  Therefore, there can be an emotional impact on the patient.

Fingertip injuries that are part of a workers’ compensations have secondary motivation issues. For instance, the patient may have concerns about disability status and impairment.

Fingertip injuries can be subject to clinical bias. For example, medical practitioners may view the severity of the injury differently from the patient. Approach to Fingertip Injuries Patricia Martin-Playa, MD, Anthony Foo, MD* Clin Plastic Surg 46 (2019) 275–283 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cps.2019.02.001

Is There a Special Law for Amputation Cases?

Yes. In the case of amputations, total temporary disability benefits are extended out to 240 weeks from 104 weeks.  This is pursuant to Labor Code Section 4565(c)(3)(c.)

What Type of Permanent Impairment Can Arise from A Fingertip Injury?

Fingertip injuries can cause many types of impairments.  There are impairments that relate to amputations, there are impairments that relate to skin conditions, there are impairments that relate to nerve damage, there are impairments which relate to loss of function such as range of motion.  Also, there may be a pain impairment add-on.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

 

 

 

UPPER EXTREMITY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SURGERIES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Studies about workers’ compensation as always of interest to Injured Workers.   A lot of these studies tell us how and why insurance companies, employers and doctors act in particular ways.   A study addressing upper extremity surgeries provides us such insight. The study compared the results of industrial versus non-industrial upper extremity surgeries.

This article will discuss, upper extremity surgeries, issues relating to upper extremity surgeries, and the results of the study.

What Are Upper Extremity Surgeries?

 With respect to upper extremities, there are a variety of surgeries that are done on an industrial basis.  Upper extremity surgeries can range from shoulders to finger tips. Parts operated on can include areas such as the shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms, wrists, and fingers.

For shoulders and elbows, there operations can include fracture surgeries, total shoulder replacements, shoulder arthroscopies, rotator cuff repairs, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and elbow arthroscopy.

For the wrist, operations can include fracture surgeries, carpal tunnel releases, wrist arthroscopies, wrist joint replacements and wrist fusions.

How Are Workers’ Compensation Upper Extremity Surgeries Different Than Non-Industrial Upper Extremity Surgeries?

Approval:  Unlike Health Insurance Company approval for surgeries, Workers’ Compensation surgeries are subject to utilization review and independent medical review. Thus, there are guidelines and algorithms that must be met in order for surgeries to get authorized.  This can lead to delays in getting approval.

Medical Providers:  For many Injured Workers, they are constrained to using hand surgeons and upper extremity surgeons within the workers’ compensation insurance medical provider networks. Thus, the quality of the surgeon is subject to the insurance company’s dedication to having good providers.

Total Temporary Disability Benefits: For Injured Workers, they receive benefits is they remain symptomatic. Therefore, it is necessary that the voice all of their problems.

Permanent Disability Benefits: For Injured Workers, they need to be critical of the results of the surgery and be able to describe them.  Therefore, the result is viewed with this mindset.

What Was the Study’s Conclusion?

 The study “found that patients receiving WC[workers’ compensation] had worse postsurgical results after upper extremity surgery and demonstrated less pre- vs postoperative improvement than uncompensated patients regardless of which outcomes were measured. However, this effect was not uniform among different types of outcomes. Functional measures, such as AOM or grip strength, were least likely to demonstrate a significant difference between compensated and uncompensated patients. The same was true in studies that measured pre- vs postoperative improvement rather than only assess patient postoperatively.” Fujihara Y, Shauver MJ, Lark ME, Zhong L, Chung KC. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation on Outcome Measurement Methods after Upper Extremity Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;139(4):923-933. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000003154. It was noted that this analysis was aware that compensated patients can result in artificial reduction of the therapeutic effect which may lead to incorrect conclusions. Supra.

The study noted that “.. the effect of WC on surgical outcome is not solely an issue of malingering Americans. Compensation systems that do not incentivise feigning impairment, also observe worse outcomes associated with WC. Rather, this may indicate that increased impairment among workers receiving WC may be a result of psychological effects on patients caused by a sense of victimization or injustice .” Fujihara Y, Shauver MJ, Lark ME, Zhong L, Chung KC. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation on Outcome Measurement Methods after Upper Extremity Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;139(4):923-933. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000003154

In sum, it would appear that Injured Workers have poorer post-operative results.   There are factors of income, malingering, psychological effects of victimhood and injustice may be the factors lead to a poorer workers’ compensation result.

Knowing these Results, How Will an Injured Worker Be Treated?

 Insurance Companies, knowing the surgery result may be poor, may want to avoid providing for it.  This can be done in two ways: one, settling the case before surgery, two, contesting the need for the surgery.

Doctors take pride in their work.  Doctors like to have good results.  Therefore, doctors may not thrilled with Injured Workers because there will be some level of dissatisfaction and representations that the surgical result was not optimal.

Employers, like Insurance Companies, may not be happy with surgeries with poor results.  For them, they are faced with a costlier claim as well as possible issues with respect to return to work.   Return to work issues would involve either qualified Injured worker status or the need to provide alternative or modified work.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

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