Like wedding vows, some wedding bands aren’t meant to be broken. But British doctors have solved the challenge of removing titanium rings from patients’ fingers — using bolt cutters.
Even firefighters were unable to cut through the titanium wedding band of a man who sought emergency treatment because of a painfully swollen ring finger, according to a case report published online Aug. 14 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.
“Our method used simple equipment that is readily available in most hospitals at all times, took less than 30 seconds to perform and could be performed by a sole operator without damage to the underlying finger,” wrote Andrej Salibi, of the plastic surgery unit at Sheffield Teaching Hospital in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.
Titanium is an increasingly popular alternative to gold and silver for wedding rings because it’s light but strong, durable and doesn’t cause skin allergies, the study authors noted.
Silver and gold rings can usually be removed from swollen fingers with basic ring cutters. But titanium rings require specialized cutting equipment, such as dental saws, drills or diamond-tipped saws, according to background information in a journal news release.
A swollen finger caused by ring constriction is common in emergency departments. If the ring can’t be removed quickly, it may cut off the blood supply, resulting in tissue death and possible loss of the finger, the doctors explained.
The usual methods used to remove titanium rings can take up to 15 minutes, may require more than one health-care provider and can burn the skin. Also, not all hospitals have quick access to the specialized equipment, the authors added.
In the newly reported case, the finger swelling was caused by spending too much time in a warm spa bath.
The doctors were unable to remove the ring using traditional methods such as elevation, lubrication, finger binding to reduce swelling, and a manual ring cutter. Even firefighters with specialized cutting gear failed to slice through the metal, according to the report.
Finally, the doctors tried a large pair of bolt cutters — a standard piece of equipment in operating rooms — and had the ring off in less than 1 minute. The patient made a successful recovery, the study authors said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about swelling.