PURPOSE: Data objectively comparing outcomes following pollicization versus toe-to-thumb transfer for reconstruction after traumatic thumb amputation in adults remains sparse. Given that this decision is reliant on personal preference, it is important to understand the subjective nature of these preferences, particularly in the context of culture. The purpose of this study was to compare Eastern and Western societal and hand surgeon preferences for pollicization versus toe-to-thumb transfer for traumatic thumb reconstruction.
METHODS: Investigators from 6 international locations recruited local hand surgeons and members of the general population. Austria, Germany, the United States, and Spain were grouped as "Western" nations. China and India separately represented "Eastern" nations. Participants completed a questionnaire evaluating their personal preferences for pollicization and toe-to-thumb transfer. The questions posed to the general population and hand surgeons were identical. Demographic data were also collected.
RESULTS: When comparing the Western nations, China, and India, there was no difference in personal preferences within the general population for pollicization versus toe-to-thumb transfer. In contrast, most Indian hand surgeons favored toe-to-thumb transfer and most Western surgeons were uncertain about which procedure they would favor. Surgeons had more optimistic expectations regarding postoperative hand function, new thumb sensation, and hand appearance following pollicization than the general population. Similarly, for toe-to-thumb transfer, a greater proportion of surgeons predicted good-to-excellent function, sensation, and appearance.
CONCLUSIONS: There was no clear, observed "East" versus "West" difference in the general population's personal preferences for pollicization versus toe-to-thumb transfer among study participants. The members of the general population and hand surgeons had different outcome expectations.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Understanding how culture influences patient and hand surgeon preferences for pollicization versus toe-to-thumb transfer may help guide future decision-making for traumatic thumb reconstruction.