When a dog attacks someone, the victim could suffer from deep puncture wounds and torn tissue. According to some estimates, 27,000 of the 4.5 million people who are bit by dogs every year need reconstructive surgery.
Here’s a look at some of the most common plastic surgeries and procedures that dog bite victims may need.
Immediately after getting bitten, many people need primary reconstruction. However, it’s critical for healthcare providers to be extremely careful with stitches. A dog’s mouth has over a thousand species of pathogenic bacteria, and if locked in, the bacteria can lead to serious infections. Children in this situation should receive care from a Level I pediatric trauma hospital.
Approximately 10% of patients with soft tissue injuries to their mouth, jaws, or face received those wounds from a mammal bite; dogs are the culprit 90% of the time. With these wounds, most victims need secondary reconstruction months or potentially even years after the injury. Often, it takes multiple procedures to get the face back to how it looked before the attack, and in addition to plastic surgeons, you may need a care team that involves a dermatologist, an ophthalmologist, and other specialists.
When dogs bite, they tend to clench down and as they pull away from the victim, they can damage skin. To address these injuries, the plastic surgeon may recommend flap reconstruction. Also called autologous tissue reconstruction, this procedure is commonly used to rebuild breasts after a mastectomy, but it can also be used to rebuild areas such as nasal passages. It involves taking skin, muscle, or bone from one part of your body and moving it to another part. Specialists have used forehead flaps to reconstruct the nose or forearm flaps for ear reconstruction.
Skin, Bone, and Tissue Grafts
Surgeons may also use grafts on dog bite victims. This is just like a flap in that it involves moving skin or tissue from one area to another, but the key difference is that a flap has its own blood supply while a graft needs to be placed specifically where it can access the blood supply of the area. For example, surgeons may take cartilage or bones from ribs to reconstruct the nose.
Patients may also need special procedures to help with the contours of their face. If they have areas where the skin is depressed, they may need fat moved into those areas, which is possible using fat grafting. Conversely, when patients have thicker skin due to the build-up of scar tissue, they may need debulking, which refers to thinning out the skin surgically.
Many patients have scars even if they don’t need reconstructive surgeries, and other patients may still have scars after extensive reconstruction work. Unfortunately, in both cases, facial scars can contribute to issues such as low self-esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of that intersection, scar removal is not just cosmetic. It can have a significant impact on the physical and emotional healing process.
To address scars after a dog bite, plastic surgeons may use the some of the following techniques:
- Laser resurfacing to smooth scars
- Fraxel laser treatments to minimize the appearance of scars
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) lasers to reduce redness of scars
- Fillers to remove indentions
- Z-plasties to improve the appearance of scars through surgery
Plastic Surgery for Children
Children are disproportionately affected by dog attacks, and they often need plastic surgery. One study looked at the dog bite injuries of 108 children from ages five months to 18 years. Approximately 60% of these children had injuries to their faces while 30% had injuries on their extremities.
Immediately after the attack, 39% of these children had their wounds closed in the emergency room, and they needed a consultation with a plastic surgeon. Another 21% of the children needed skip flaps or other types of reconstructive surgeries as part of their initial treatment.
Over a quarter of the children had to be hospitalized after the initial treatment, and close to 10% needed to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time due to infection. Based on this study, the breed of dog involved affected the likelihood of needing surgery or hospitalization. Half the children who were bitten by pit bulls needed surgery. That was triple the rate experienced by children who had been bitten by other breeds of dogs.
If you or your child has been bitten or attacked by a dog, the healing process can be long, emotionally traumatic, and expensive. You may be entitled to compensation for the cost of your medical bills and other expenses. To learn more, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today for a free case-evaluation.