Well, my stupid brother went and did it: got into a fight, punched a guy in the face, and ended up with an infected hand. We share a house, so I'm stuck taking care of him. So far, it doesn't look too good. How long does it take to heal from something like this?
If your brother has not been seen by a physician, then the first step is an immediate medical appointment. For this type of injury and infection, self-care at home is not advised as it may not be enough. Antibiotics may be needed and if there is infection in the joint, surgery may even be needed.
If he is already under the care of a physician, then proper follow-up is important. He must go to any scheduled appointments. Any change in symptoms (worsening) or new symptoms (flu-like with fever, chills, fatigue) must be reported to the doctor right away.
Patients with infections of the wrist, hand, or fingers from trauma may develop either osteomyelitis (bone infection) or septic arthritis (joint infection). Undiagnosed, delayed diagnosis, or untreated, any of these infectious agents can cause destruction of the joint. Loss of motion, impaired function, and eventual arthritis with pain, stiffness, and disability can occur. The disease process can get so bad, a person can lose the affected hand.
But even when caught quickly, there is still a risk of poor outcomes, especially for patients who abuse tobacco and/or alcohol. Likewise, patients with other health problems are at increased risk for long-term problems. Patients must be advised of these possible complications right from the start to avoid an unhappy surprise if/when treatment is not as successful as hoped for.
That all sounds like a lot of bad news. Recovery with all parts intact is possible. Again, the key is early and consistent medical care. Your most important role may be as a supportive family member who helps get your brother to his doctor appointments. It will be up to him to follow his doctor's counsel and advice.
Patricia McKay, MD, MC, USN, et al. Osteomyelitis and Septic Arthritis of the Hand and Wrist. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. November/December 2010. Vol. 21. No. 6. Pp. 542-550.
*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.