THAT PECULIAR CONDITION which consists of the development of a constricting band around a digit, usually of a toe and most usually of a small toe, and which leads to eventual withering of the part, was first described more than 100 years ago as "dry gangrene" by Clarke.1 In 1867, da Silva Lima2 applied to the phenomenon the word "ainhum" (meaning "to saw") taken from the Yoruba language spoken by the people indigenous to the west coast of Africa where, amongst other places, the condition is common. We do not know when the term "dactylolysis spontanea" was coined, but it too is apt in its literal statement of spontaneous separation of a digit.
By now several hundred cases of what conforms to the concept of an inherently painless withering and spontaneous amputation of a digit as described above have been reported. When pain is prominent in the process,
Allyn B, Leider M. Dactylolysis Spontanea (Ainhum): Report of a Case Treated by the Surgical Procedure Known as Z-Plasty. JAMA. 1963;184(8):655–657. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.73700210018020
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