Research Articles

Profile and management of the firework-injured hand

T. Pilling, P. Govender
South African Family Practice | Vol 58, No 2 : March/April| a5674 | DOI: | © 2022 T. Pilling, P. Govender | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 November 2022 | Published: 01 March 2016

About the author(s)

T. Pilling, Department of Occupational Therapy, Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
P. Govender, Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Background: Numerous studies internationally highlight the devastating effects of firework-related injuries and the costs involved in treating these injuries, in addition to the calls to alter legislation to prevent these injuries from occurring. There has, however, been a paucity of research studies in the South African context that describes the complexity of the injuries sustained. The aim of this study was thus to profile the firework-injured hand and to review the management from a surgical and rehabilitation perspective.

Methods: A retrospective file audit was conducted on patients who had sustained firework injuries between 2009 and 2014 (n = 65) in two hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa.

Results: The firework-injured hand has a varied profile, which appears to be dependent on the blast capacity. The thumb, index and middle fingers were predominantly affected at the level of the distal phalanges and distal interphalangeal joints resulting in amputation due to severe soft tissue injury and resultant fractures. Hand Injury Severity Scores indicated a large percentage of cases within the severe category. Medical and surgical interventions occurred within the first three to six hours post-injury and involved washout, cleaning, debridement and suturing. Formalisation of amputation was the predominant course of action. Rehabilitation was focused on assessment and hand therapy to ensure functional outcomes.

Conclusions: From this study, the authors conclude that the firework-injured hand should be managed according to the resultant diagnosis, be it an amputation, fracture, or soft tissue injury, whilst managing the symptoms of oedema, pain and stiffness, which will all impact on hand function outcomes.


hand function; hand rehabilitation; hand therapy; soft tissue injuries; traumatic amputation


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