What is included in emergency department (ED) care for animal bites?

Updated: Sep 18, 2018
  • Author: Alisha Perkins Garth, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Most bite wounds can be treated in the ED. Essentials of treatment are inspection, debridement, irrigation, and closure, if indicated. Complete trauma evaluation occasionally is indicated.

Carefully inspect bite wounds to identify deep injury and devitalized tissue. Obtaining an adequate inspection of a bite wound that has not been anesthetized is nearly impossible. Care should be taken to visualize the bottom of the wound and, if applicable, to examine the wound through a range of motion.

Debridement is an effective means of preventing infection. Removing devitalized tissue, particulate matter, and clots prevents these from becoming a source of infection, much like any foreign body. Clean, surgical wound edges result in smaller scars and promote faster healing.

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