Our 26-year-old son was just hospitalized for hand surgery. They say he has a staph infection that has affected the soft tissues of his thumb, wrist, and forearm. It sounds like antibiotics might help but he's going to need the entire area cleaned out surgically first. We're still fuzzy on all the details. What can cause something like this?
Staph infection (staphylococcus aureus being the most common type) affecting the hand can develop as a result of trauma. Records kept by trauma units and emergency departments in hospitals report wood splinters and metal pieces getting embedded in the hand as the most frequent way an opening into the hand leaves the body at risk for a staph infection.
There are other means by which bacteria can get introduced into the bloodstream, soft tissues, and joints. Human bites, insect bites, and intravenous (illicit) drug use are three other mechanisms of wound development. There are cases of spontaneous infection without any known event beforehand.
If antibiotics will work, then your son may have what is referred to as a community-acquired methicillin resistant stapholococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) infection. The really worrisome type of infection is just called MRSA. This type of staph infection is resistant to all antibiotics. It is multidrug resistant.
Older adults are at the greatest risk of developing staph infections that are multidrug resistant. They have weak or compromised immune systems. They may be catheterized or on dialysis. Health problems such as diabetes may increase the risk of infection.
Once your son has had the surgery to debride (clean out the infection) the wound and gets back on his feet, it may be possible to identify what led up to the infection in the first place. It could be any one of the risk factors identified for community-acquired MRSA. But it could remain unknown.
Ali Nourbakhsh, MD, et al. Stratification of the Risk Factors of Community-Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Hand Infection. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. July 2010. Vol. 35A. No. 7. Pp. 1135-1141.
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