Animal and Human Bite Wounds

Karin Rothe, Michael Tsokos, Werner Handrick
Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 2015 June 19, 112 (25): 433-42; quiz 443

BACKGROUND: 30,000 to 50,000 injuries are caused by bites in Germany every year. Dog and cat bites are common, human bites relatively rare. 25% of the victims are under age 6, and 34% are aged 6 to 17.

METHODS: This review is based on pertinent literature retrieved by a selective search and on the authors' clinical and scientific experience.

RESULTS: In small children, most bite wounds are on the head and neck; in older children and adolescents, most are on the limbs. Bite injuries range from trivial ones needing no medical intervention to major soft-tissue defects with the loss of functionally important structures. A bite can transmit unusual pathogens from the saliva into the wound. The risk of infection after a bite is 10-20%, and about 30-60% of the infections are of mixed aerobic-anaerobic origin. Prophylactic antibiotics are recommended only for wounds that are considered at high risk of infection in view of their type and location, the species of the biting animal, and the characteristics of the patient.

CONCLUSION: Structured surgical management of bite wounds is the most important factor in the prevention of infection. High-risk wounds must be differentiated from trivial ones. Interdisciplinary management is advisable for wounds on the hands and face.

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