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Statistically, younger children experience more bites to the head and trunk, while adults and older children are more commonly bitten on the hand. The hand contains tendons, joints, vessels, bones, and fascial compartments in a small cross-sectional area; therefore, it is prone to serious injury and significant infections, making attention to these injuries particularly important. Additionally, ED evaluation must take into consideration who, if anyone, needs antibiotic prophylaxis, who needs to be vaccinated for rabies, and what common complications to consider with specific bites.
Initial approach to hand bites is similar to any other injury: assess the wound, stop any active bleeding, and evaluate neurologic and musculoskeletal function. Good wound care is the key to preventing infections. Bite wounds need to be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and a fine-pore sponge if rabies is a concern.
Devitalized tissue or gross debris must be removed. Location of the bite wound dictates the need for radiographic evaluation. In most wounds, x-rays of the involved area should be taken to rule out fractures or retained teeth. This is particularly important with dog bites, where the crush aspect of the injury can be as severe as the puncture. Dog bites.
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Common organisms include Staphylococcus aureus , alpha and beta hemolytic strep, Bacillus, Pasteurella, and Pseudomonas. Although Pasteurella is often discussed in association with dog bites, it is rarely the sole pathogen. Dog bites are most likely to cause crush injuries with ripping or tearing of the skin. As a result, these should be carefully inspected and imaged for possible fractures and other musculoskeletal injuries. Fractures, tendon injuries, joint penetration, and evidence of neurovascular compromise mandate appropriate splinting and consultation with a hand surgeon.
All bites to the hand should receive antibiotic prophylaxis. In penicillin-allergic patients, extended spectrum cephalosporins or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole plus clindamycin is recommended. One meta-analysis of prophylactic antibiotics for dog-bite wounds found that a relative risk of infection was 0. Capnocytophaga canimorsus is a serious but uncommon complication of bite wounds. Approximately cases have been reported since , most often associated with dog bites in immunocompromised patients. Cat bites. Cat bites are almost always puncture wounds, and when located on the hand they frequently enter into the joint space.
Therefore, when treating cat bites to the hand, the potential for the delayed complication of joint infection should always be considered. Pasteurella multocida, S. Cats frequently clean their claws, so even scratches to the hand carry the risk of infection.
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Puncture wounds should not be irrigated directly into the puncture site unless it is a through-and-through injury, and wounds should not be closed primarily. Due to the high rate of infection, most cat bites in general and all cat bites to the hand require prophylactic antibiotics. Penicillin-allergic patients can be given extended spectrum macrolides such as azithromycin, fluoroquinolones, or TMP-SMX. Cat-scratch disease is a potential but uncommon complication of cat bites. It is caused by the organism Bartonella henselae. The primary lesion is a crusted papule that develops at the injury site days after the bite or scratch.
Rare occurrences of encephalopathy and atypical pneumonia have been seen in association with this condition. The course is usually self-limited and resolves in months without treatment. Severe cases can be treated with tetracyclines. Human bites. Another common pediatric injury is human bites.
In young children, bites to the hand from other children that do not penetrate the skin need nothing more than local wound care. As with all human-inflicted wounds, child abuse should always be a consideration. Wound care and evaluation is similar to that of all other bites, including imaging as necessary. The "fight bite" is the most recognized human bite wound to the hand and carries with it a multitude of complications.
Fight bites are more common in older children and occur when a clenched fist strikes a tooth, resulting in a deep laceration at the MCP joint. Upon relaxation of the fist, oral flora is inoculated in the relatively avascular fascial layer. The presence of an extensor tendon injury is highly predictive of joint penetration, requiring evaluation by a hand surgeon. These patients need to be placed on IV antibiotics and be considered for surgical debridement. Human bites are usually polymicrobial, with Streptococcus and Staphylococcus being the most common.
Infected wounds may also require anaerobic coverage, and consideration on a case-by-case basis for infectious disease transmission of pathogens such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, herpes, and syphilis. Monkey bites. While rare, monkey bites deserve mention as they are reported to carry some of the highest risk for bacterial infection.
All bites to the hand should receive prophylactic antibiotics selection similar to that for human bites. B virus Cercopithecine herpesvirus can be transmitted by wounds from infected macaque monkeys, in particular rhesus and cynomolgus. Wounds from potentially infected animals need to be cleaned immediately with chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine solutions for 15 minutes. If the exposure is high-risk actively infected animal or one with visible lesions , then prophylactic anti-virals should be considered.
A detailed discussion of rabies treatment is beyond the scope of this article, although some basics can be outlined here. Post-exposure prophylaxis is indicated if the animal is known or suspected to be rabid. High-risk animals include bats and wild carnivores bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, and wolf.
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Bites from healthy animals that can be observed for 10 days, or animals who can be examined for rabies, do not require prophylaxis. Rabbit or rodent bites usually do not require treatment, but consult local public health officials about the prevalence of rabies in these animals. As much immune globulin as possible should be given directly at the bite site, with the remainder given in the deltoid. Human diploid cell rabies vaccine 1 mL is indicated on days 0, 3, 7, 14, and In the pediatric population, the amount that can be infiltrated near a hand injury will be minimal.
As with all wounds, thorough cleaning of the injured area is the most important step to prevent infection with rabies. Tetanus prophylaxis should be considered in all patients with a vaccination status more than five years out of date. DPT is recommended for children younger than 7 years old. Tdap is recommended for adolescents age years in place of Td. Dog, cat, and human bites are the three most common animal bites seen; they are also the most common hand injuries that present with delayed infection. Pediatric hand injuries are commonplace in the ED. While some may need operative intervention, after a careful assessment and an awareness of potential pitfalls, the skilled emergency physician should be able to successfully diagnose and optimally treat these frequent pediatric injuries.
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Lacerations Patterns of injury and epidemiology. Conclusion Pediatric hand injuries are commonplace in the ED. References 1. Childhood finger injuries and safeguards. Inj Prevent ; Guy RJ. The etiologies and mechanisms of nail bed injuries. Hand Clin ; Bower M.