You’d be surprised to hear what people stick in their hands. Dr. Nick Pappas, an orthopedic surgeon in New Orleans, is going viral on TikTok for sharing some of the objects he’s had to surgically remove from his patients’ hands over the years. He said most hand surgeries only take about 30 minutes, but the memories last a lifetime. He’s seen patients with extra fingers that need to be removed and people with pieces of jewelry lodged in their skin.
“I had one guy with a snake bite, which can make the whole hand swell up like a balloon,” Pappas explained. “He’d killed the snake after it attacked him, and all the nurses were freaking out because the guy had a snake bite, the container — and the dead snake, which he’d brought with him.”
He’s removed sea urchins, BB gun pellets, and even pieces of electrical wire. Patients also end up under the knife due to botched DIY home improvement projects with nails and screws in their skin.
“If it’s a screw, I have to find where it entered and find the brand of screw and try different screwdrivers to remove it,” he explained. “It might be that the head of the screw is damaged, or the screw is stuck to the bone, and I have to chisel it out of the hand instead. You need the right imaging and the right instruments. It can be challenging, and it’s not always straightforward.”
And then there are the gunshot wounds, so many gunshot wounds. Pappas said it’s often better to leave the bullet in place unless it’s sticking out of the person’s hand.
“In general, surgeons don’t remove bullets from the extremities unless they are causing pain, are very superficial, are in a joint, or are pushing on a neurovascular structure,” he informed. “Sometimes it can be more harmful to try to take it out than to just leave it in, as long as it’s not causing any issues.”
Reattaching someone’s finger can also be “challenging.”
“I did one where I replaced someone’s thumb with their big toe. It took 12 hours and can be very tricky because the size doesn’t always match up,” he confessed. “If you mess it up, and the blood vessels don’t work properly, then it can lead to a bad outcome. Thankfully, this one was successful.”
The sea urchin was particularly difficult to remove after the patient accidentally fell onto one of the creatures. It had lodged its spine all the way into the man’s bone. The procedure ended up taking up the entire day.
“I also had one that was done from a Samurai sword that took off three of his fingers, and it took 10 hours to re-attach all the nerves, the tendons and the bones,” Pappas revealed.
Be careful the next you reach for a sharp object to avoid damaging your precious hands.