Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

What's the prognosis for a MRSA hand infection? Cuz that's what I've got and I am extremely worried.

Answer:

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is known more commonly as a staph infection. MRSA is a potentially serious problem (it can be fatal) because the staph bacteria have mutated (changed) enough that antibiotics can no longer kill it. Staph can usually be treated with antibiotics. But over many years, some strains of staph -- like MRSA -- have become resistant to antibiotics that once destroyed it. Staph is now resistant not only to methicillin but also to amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other antibiotics. Treatment is usually surgical drainage of the infection. And according to a recent study conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle, MRSA hand infections that are treated surgically resolve without further complications. There's even some suggestion that further treatment with antibiotics aren't needed but this decision is made on a case-by-case basis. It is also true that more than one surgical drainage may be needed to clear the area completely. Second procedures are common. Occasionally, patients need three or more operations before the infection is finally cleared up. And in a few cases, patients pick up a second (separate) infection in the process of trying to get rid of the first one. Patients often report hand stiffness and swelling after surgery but these symptoms gradually go away. The real concern is for loss of blood supply to the finger resulting in gangrene and amputation. When a joint is affected, arthritis is a distinct possibility some time later. You can ask your surgeon what is your own personal prognosis. The outcomes are often influenced by other factors such as your general health and the presence of comorbidities. Comorbidities refers to other diseases. In the case of MRSA, having diabetes, being an injection drug user, or having a documented case of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) increases the risk of developing MRSA infections. Whether these risk factors also affect final outcomes has not been reported. Scott D. Imahara, MD, and Jeffrey B. Friedrich, MD. Community-Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in Surgically Treated Hand Infections. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. January 2010. Vol. 35A. No. 1. Pp. 97-103.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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