Hands are some of the most frequent targets for dog bites after they are unknowingly presented to fearful dogs. That is all well and good in hindsight, but if your hand has been severely bitten by a dog, you are probably most interested in recovering and retaining as much function from the damaged tissue as possible. These four steps will walk you through the process of restoring your hand function in the aftermath of a serious dog bite.
Preventing Disease and Infection
Once a dog has bitten you and drawn blood, your first priority should always be to seek immediate medical attention. If you know or own the dog in question, have someone try to locate its rabies certification while you wait for emergency medical responders. This will help medical professionals determine which shots you need and which can be safely skipped. In all likelihood, you will be given a tetanus shot and started on antibiotics to prevent infections early.
Assessing the Damage
At the hospital, your hand will probably be put through x-rays to examine the severity of the structural damage. Dog jaws are designed to crush and rip, so it is fairly common to see multiple broken bones and torn ligaments in these cases. Lucky victims may only need stitches and a small cast, but extensive damage will need to be treated through an orthopedic service to encourage a full recovery of your motor functions.
Repairing Your Bones and Ligaments
During orthopedic surgery of the hand, crushed and lacerated bones and ligaments are pieced painstakingly back together to restore as much strength and range of motion as possible. Depending on the severity of the bite, this procedure may be relatively minor, or it could be a major surgery with months of physical therapy to follow. Additional operative processes, like repairing blood vessels, removing foreign objects and cutting out infected tissues may also take place during this time.
Monitoring Hand Function and Recovery
As much as 80 percent of all bite wounds are caused by dogs, and anywhere from 3 to 17 percent of those wounds will become infected. The harmful bacteria found in dogs' mouths, combined with their ability to bite deep and embed those bacteria out of sight, means that the incidence of post-surgical infection tends to be higher for dog bite victims. As you recover from your orthopedic surgery, watch for the classic signs of infection like heat, swelling, pain and discharge. A secondary operation at the site of the bite may be necessary to clear up this infection, so don't hesitate to inform your doctor or surgeon of any worrisome new developments.
For an orthopedic doctor, contact an office such as Ultimate Sports.