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One in Three Cat Accidents Leads to Hospitalizations

Update Date: Feb 06, 2014 02:56 PM EST

Cats are often known for their feisty personalities. When confronted, cats are not shy about scratching or biting. According to a new study conducted by Mayo Clinic, one in three cat-bite victims had to be hospitalized due to infections. In these cases, the cats bit down on human hands so hard that they ended up transferring dangerous bacteria into the joints and tissue that can become easily infected.

"The dogs' teeth are blunter, so they don't tend to penetrate as deeply and they tend to leave a larger wound after they bite. The cats' teeth are sharp and they can penetrate very deeply, they can seed bacteria in the joint and tendon sheaths," stated senior author Brian Carlsen, M.D., a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon and orthopedic hand surgeon. "It can be just a pinpoint bite mark that can cause a real problem, because the bacteria get into the tendon sheath or into the joint where they can grow with relative protection from the blood and immune system."

The Mayo Clinic study examined 193 patients who suffered a cat bite between Jan. 1, 2009 and 2011. Out of this sample, 57 of them had to be hospitalized for an average of three days. Out of the 57 hospitalizations, 38 of the patients had wounds that need to be surgically irrigated. This process, called debridement, flushed out the wound and removed any infected tissue. Eight of them had to undergo more than one surgical procedure and others needed reconstructive surgery. The researchers reported that bites on the wrist or joints increased one's chances of being hospitalized.

The researchers reported that right after seeking medical care, 154 patients received oral antibiotics, 36 were immediately hospitalized and three were not treated. For 21 of the outpatients, the antibiotic treatment was ineffective, which forced them to be hospitalized.

The researchers reported that 69 percent of the patients were females with the mean age of 49. Roughly 50 percent of the patient sought help from their primary care physicians whereas the others went straight to the emergency room. The mean elapsed time between the accident and receiving medical care was 27 hours.

"Cat bites look very benign, but as we know and as the study shows, they are not. They can be very serious," Carlsen stated according to Medical Xpress.

The findings were published in the Journal of Hand Surgery.

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