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Fish-hook removal techniques

Joan Bothner, MD
Section Editors
Anne M Stack, MD
Allan B Wolfson, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Fish-hooks may lodge in any body part, but the fingers and feet are most commonly involved. Most embedded fish-hooks can be removed in the emergency department. The choice of removal technique depends on the depth of penetration, body part affected, and type of fish-hook. This topic will discuss fish-hook removal techniques.


Any clinician may remove fish-hooks that are superficially embedded in the skin. Fish-hooks embedded in the eye, eyelid, or in vital structures should be removed by the appropriate surgical specialist.


There are no absolute contraindications to fish-hook removal. Subspecialty consultation should be obtained for fish-hooks lodged in the eye, eyelid, or in vital structures (eg, carotid artery, radial artery, peritoneum, testicle, urethra) or when a hook is embedded very near to these structures [1-3].

Initial emergency management of penetrating injuries to the eye is found in the table (table 1). (See "Open globe injuries: Emergent evaluation and initial management".)


Most fish-hooks lodge in the dermis or subcutaneous layers of the skin. The most common type of hook has an eyelet at one end, a straight shank, and a curved belly that ends in a barbed point on the inner curve that points away from the hook's tip (figure 1). Because the barb is set into the tissue, the fish-hook cannot be pulled out by the shank without causing tissue damage unless the barb is somehow disengaged from the tissue.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 28, 2014.
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