Thumb Loss

by Amber Henson, on Apr 25, 2023


The thumb is the most important digit on the hand and is responsible for approximately 40% of the hand’s function.1 When a person loses part of their hand, it is always devastating, but losing a thumb can quite literally mean losing one’s grip. In this article, we’ll explore how our upper limb specialists help their patients regain hand function with different types of prostheses and sometimes even surgical options.

DALL·E 2023-04-14 14.16.57 - Extend the side with the same trees and grass to blend with photo

In 2010, Dennis, pictured above, was working as a defense contractor in Afghanistan. When the building where he lived came under fire, Dennis was left with several significant injuries, including the loss of his right thumb. He first met with a prosthetist from another company, who said they couldn’t help him. When he came to our Arm Dynamics center in Portland, OR, we worked with Dennis to restore his grasp for activities such as gripping a steering wheel, martial arts and golf:

Sometimes losing even a portion of the thumb can cause issues. Our patient Robert had an amputation that led to hypersensitivity in the residual part of his thumb, and the shortness of the digit made playing the guitar unpleasant, as the pick kept slipping when he played. The solution was a thumb extender/protector, which you can see him use in this video:

Over the past several years, more options have become available for people who would like a passive or body-powered thumb prosthesis. Point Designs offers a passive, positionable thumb, the Point Thumb, which you can see Luke using in this video:

Naked Prosthetics offers a Thumb Driver which requires some residual thumb length to function. Leroy is wearing one in the video below:

A more unusual surgical option is the toe-to-thumb transfer. While not everyone is a candidate for it, people who have this surgery are generally pleased. In Mark’s patient profile video, you can watch him talk about his experience, from injury to surgery to being fit with Point Designs digits for the two fingers he lost in addition to his thumb:

While the loss of any digit can have a significant impact on hand function, the loss of a thumb can be particularly debilitating. Our Arm Dynamics clinicians can offer many solutions to restore and improve function in all aspects of life after thumb loss.

If you or someone you know would benefit from a complimentary consultation with our clinical team, please contact us. If you have experienced thumb loss and would like to leave a comment, we would love for you to do so below.

For more Arm Dynamics articles, see related resources here:

1: Capek, K. D., Hughes, B. D., & Warden, G. D. (2018). Functional sequelae and disability assessment. In Total burn care (pp. 673-678). Elsevier.

Topics:Finger LossBody-Powered ProsthesesCosmetic ProsthesesHeavy Duty ProsthesesAmputation LevelsOutdoor Activities

About the Upper Limb Library

The Arm Dynamics team is made up of the most experienced upper limb prosthetic care providers in the world. Our Upper Limb Library is our community space for articles for and by those with an upper limb difference. Read on to learn all about issues that affect those who have had an amputation, and be sure to leave a comment letting us know what topic you’d like to know more about!


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