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Causative microorganisms in surgically treated pediatric hand infections.

PURPOSE: The causative organisms in many pediatric musculoskeletal infections are distinct from their adult counterparts. We investigated the organisms found in surgically treated hand infections in the pediatric population.

METHODS: We reviewed the hospital charts and computer records of all patients who had surgical intervention for infections of the forearm, wrist, and hand from 1996 through 2002 at The Children's Hospital of Boston.

RESULTS: Thirty-eight surgical procedures were performed on 31 children for 32 different upper-extremity infections. One patient was treated for 2 separate infections. In the 32 primary procedures 7 cultures grew mixed aerobic/anaerobic organisms, 19 grew aerobic organisms only, 6 grew no organisms, and 2 patients had no cultures. One culture from a secondary surgery was positive for Candida parapsilosis. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated in 15 of the primary cases and was the primary organism in 12. Five of 7 mixed infections were associated with paronychia; 2 of the paronychial infections were complicated by flexor tenosynovitis. Chronic nail biting caused 2 infections and 1 was associated with thumb sucking.

CONCLUSIONS: In the adult population S aureus is the primary organism cultured in 50% to 80% of cases and anaerobic or mixed infection may occur in upward of 29% of patients. In this series S aureus was the primary organism in only 37%. Group A Streptococcus pyogenes was present in 20% of cases. The percentage of children with a mixed aerobic/anaerobic infection was similar to that found in adults; however, the presumed route of introduction was digital sucking/biting. Based on the number of anaerobic/mixed infections without predisposing factors we recommend a broad-spectrum antibiotic regimen including anaerobic coverage as the initial antibiotic in the setting of pediatric hand infections.

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