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What Is “Avocado Hand”?

Avocado hand is a common hand injury, according to Summit Orthopedics hand surgeon Lauren Smith, M.D. Here’s what to do if it happens to you.

While some upper extremity injuries have highly technical-sounding names, others have nicknames, like “tennis elbow.” One hand injury nickname that’s destined to gain notoriety? Avocado hand.

What is avocado hand?

“Avocado hand is what we call it when a person gets a laceration on the palm of their nondominant hand,” said Summit hand surgeon Lauren Smith, M.D. “They are holding a knife in their dominant hand, and they’re holding the avocado in their other hand. The knife slips when they’re cutting the avocado or when they’re whacking the knife blade into the hard, woody seed to try to remove it from the avocado.”

Depending on what the laceration includes, an avocado hand injury can damage:

I cut myself, and now I have avocado hand. What should I do next?

Dr. Smith stressed that if you cut the palm of your hand with a knife, you should see a doctor right away. “The earlier you get in to see someone the better,” Dr. Smith said. “The reason for that is that if the injury is new, it’s more likely that we can repair it primarily — meaning we can suture the ends of the tendons, nerves, and artery together.” This approach allows for a better outcome, early rehabilitation, and faster healing.

The longer you wait, Dr. Smith said, the less likely it is that surgeons can repair end to end. “If you wait, the muscle retracts, and we can no longer attach the tendon as easily. This means you’ll likely need two surgeries,” she said. Without it, you may not be able to move your fingers normally or have a strong grip, both of which can have a negative effect on your quality of life over the long term.

If the digital nerves retract, you may need to have a nerve graft to fill the gap.

How can I avoid getting avocado hand?

If you follow good kitchen safety practices, including always cutting food on a cutting board or counter surface rather than holding it in your other hand, you can avoid this painful injury. In addition, Dr. Smith recommends using a spoon to scoop out the large avocado seed in the middle of the fruit, instead of using a knife.

By using those common-sense rules in the kitchen, you can continue enjoying avocados safely and avoid a trip to the operating room for hand surgery.

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