Common acute hand infections.

Authors:
Dwayne C Clark
Dwayne C Clark
Naval Hospital Jacksonville

Am Fam Physician 2003 Dec;68(11):2167-76

Department of Family Practice, Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida 32214, USA.

Hand infections can result in significant morbidity if not appropriately diagnosed and treated. Host factors, location, and circumstances of the infection are important guides to initial treatment strategies. Many hand infections improve with early splinting, elevation, appropriate antibiotics and, if an abscess is present, incision and drainage. Tetanus prophylaxis is indicated in patients who have at-risk infections. Paronychia, an infection of the epidermis bordering the nail, commonly is precipitated by localized trauma. Treatment consists of incision and drainage, warm-water soaks and, sometimes, oral antibiotics. A felon is an abscess of the distal pulp of the fingertip. An early felon may be amenable to elevation, oral antibiotics, and warm water or saline soaks. A more advanced felon requires incision and drainage. Herpetic whitlow is a painful infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Early treatment with oral antiviral agents may hasten healing. Pyogenic flexor tenosynovitis and clenched-fist injuries are more serious infections that often require surgical intervention. Pyogenic flexor tenosynovitis is an acute synovial space infection involving a flexor tendon sheath. Treatment consists of parenteral antibiotics and sheath irrigation. A clenched-fist injury usually is the result of an altercation and often involves injury to the extensor tendon, joint capsule, and bone. Wound exploration, copious irrigation, and appropriate antibiotics can prevent undesired outcomes.

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December 2003
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