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.

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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. A passive positional digit like the one Point Designs offers, the Point Thumb, can be of great help. 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 passive positional 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.


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