1 in 3 patients bitten in the hand needs hospitalization and infections are common

Dogs are not the only pets that sometimes bite the hands of those who feed them.Cats are equally guilty and with it, they can inject bacteria deep into the joints, creating the perfect environment for infections.

Cat bites on their hands are so dangerous that 1 in 3 patients suffering from these injuries needs to be hospitalized, reveals a three-year Mayo Clinic study. Two thirds of hospitalized patients needed surgery and middle-aged women were the most common victims, says research published in the professional Journal of Hand Surgery .

Why are cat bites so dangerous in the hands? It’s not because cats have more microbes in their mouths than dogs, or even that the same people, but it all lies in the fangs.

“The teeth of the dogs are less sharp, they do not tend to penetrate so deep and they usually leave a larger wound when they bite. The teeth of the cats, on the other hand, are sharp and can penetrate very deep, planting bacteria in the joints and tendon sheaths “, says the expert author of the study, Dr. Brian Carlsen, plastic surgeon and orthopedic surgeon for hand at the Mayo Clinic .

“It may be a bite that hardly looks like a pinprick that causes a real problem because the bacteria enter the tendon sheath or the joint, where they can grow with relative protection of the blood and immune system,” adds Dr. Carlsen.

Bacteria injected through the cat bite may include a strain common in animals, but particularly difficult to combat with antibiotics, he explains.

In the study, the scientists identified 193 Mayo Clinic patients with cat bites in their hands, between January 1, 2009 and the year 2011. Of these, 57 were hospitalized, with an average hospitalization of three days. Of the hospitalized patients, 38 required surgical irrigation of the wounds, or washes, in addition to the removal of the infected tissue, a procedure known as debridement. Eight patients needed more than one operation, and some required reconstructive surgery.

Middle-aged women are the most frequent victims of cat bites

Of the 193 patients, 69 percent were women and the average age was 49 years. About 50 percent of the patients went to the emergency room first and the rest to primary care. The average time between the time of biting and receiving medical attention was 27 hours. The study found that patients with bites directly on the wrists or any other joint of the hand had a higher risk of requiring hospital admission than people with bites on the soft tissue.

Thirty-six of the 193 patients were hospitalized immediately after presenting for medical attention, while 154 received outpatient treatment with oral antibiotics, and three received no treatment. Outpatient treatment with antibiotics did not work in 21 patients, which represents a failure rate of 14 percent, and required hospitalization.

The key point of this is that doctors and victims of cat bites in hand need to take the situation seriously and carefully evaluate wounds, says Dr. Carlsen. He and other researchers believe that when patients have swollen skin and swelling, it is necessary to administer aggressive treatment.

People tend not to pay close attention to cat bites, in part, because they usually look like a pin prick, while dog bites have a much worse appearance, Dr. Carlsen says.

However, that is precisely the problem: “cat bites look very benign, but as we know and the study showed, they are not and can be very serious”.

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