Management of early human bites of the hand: a prospective randomized study

Plast Reconstr Surg. 1991 Jul;88(1):111-4. doi: 10.1097/00006534-199107000-00019.


A prospective, randomized study was undertaken to determine if mechanical care of early human bites alone is sufficient therapy in the compliant patient or if prophylactic antibiotics (oral versus parenteral) are indicated. Beginning in June of 1985, patients presenting with human bites of the hand were entered into the study if (1) the bite was less than 24 hours old, (2) the patient was free of infection, (3) the bite did not penetrate the joint capsule, and (4) there was no injury to tendon. Forty-eight patients were ultimately segregated into one of three study groups after standardized ER mechanical wound care. Fifteen patients received an oral placebo, with 7 developing infection (46.7 percent). Sixteen patients received an oral antibiotic, and 17 patients received parenteral antibiotics. No infections were found in either of these latter groups. The results statistically substantiate that mechanical wound care alone is insufficient therapy. Oral antibiotics appear to be equal to intravenous antibiotics for prophylaxis. From a cost-benefit standpoint, vigorous cleaning, debridement, and coverage with a broad-spectrum oral antibiotic are adequate care for an uncomplicated bite in the compliant patient.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bites, Human / complications
  • Bites, Human / therapy*
  • Cephalosporins / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Debridement
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hand Injuries / complications
  • Hand Injuries / etiology
  • Hand Injuries / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Penicillin G / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Wound Infection / etiology
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control*


  • Cephalosporins
  • Penicillin G