Significantly fewer replantations have been performed at the authors’ institution in recent years, with similar trends observed across the United States. A study of three national databases was performed to evaluate this trend, its possible cause, and national health care implications.
The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and National Inpatient Sample databases were queried for cases with a diagnosis of finger amputation over available years from 2000 to 2011. Data were weighted and analyzed to give appropriate national estimates of amputations, replantations, and related clinical variables. Trend analysis was performed using modified Poisson regression.
Although workplace finger amputation rates decreased 40 percent from 2000 to 2010 (p < 0.0001), the overall finger amputation incidence did not change significantly (26,668 versus 24,215; p = 0.097). Compared with 930 replantations in 2001, only 445 were performed in 2011, more than a 50 percent decrease (p < 0.001). In all years, the majority of hospitals performing replantation performed only one (49.3 to 64.1 percent) each year, with a small minority (2.2 to 8.1 percent) performing more than 10 per year. In 2000, 120 hospitals (12.1 percent) performed at least one replantation, compared with only 80 hospitals (7.6 percent) in 2010, a 4.6 percent annual decline (p = 0.002).
There has been a striking decline in digital replantations being performed, despite a relatively stable incidence of amputations. Apparently independent of declining work-related injuries, evolving clinical decision-making may be responsible for this trend. Decreasing replantation experience among hand surgeons lends credence to the development of specialized regional centers designed to treat these complex injuries.