Since the first description of ainhum (dactylolysis spontanea) by Clarke1 in 1860, many case reports have appeared, primarily from the tropical areas and the southern part of the United States. Until 1945, only about 50 cases had been reported from the United States; at the time of writing somewhat more than 100 have been reported.2
Whether the condition is actually rare in the United States or simply not well recognized by the medical profession is not known. Most authors believe the latter to be true. The first case seen at the Cleveland Veterans Administration Hospital in the 13 years of its existence is reported herein. One case was previously diagnosed at the University Hospitals of Cleveland (1944), while no cases have been seen at the Metropolitan General Hospital (Cleveland City Hospital) in the past 35 years.
The term "ainhum" is derived from an African word meaning "to saw."