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Date Published: Thursday, April 11, 2019
Date Updated: Friday, June 30, 2023

Physician’s Research Yields New Protocols for Dog-Bite Treatment at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital

New Algorithmic Approach to Management of Dog-Bite Injuries

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VALHALLA, NY - (April 11, 2019) – New guidelines to treat children who are the victims of dog bites have been devised at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) and the only all-specialty pediatric facility in the Hudson Valley. The rate of dog bites continues to rise among children, and WMCHealth plastic surgeons are at the forefront of initial management and outcome of these injuries nationally.

The study, conducted by Kaveh Alizadeh, MD, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), aimed to determine whether there is an association between the dog breed and frequency of dog bites, severity of injury, and treatment required. It was concluded that children with large dog bite injuries require more immediate care in hospitals with a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in order to receive the care needed in the optimal amount of time for the best possible outcome.

"When you have a child bitten by a big dog, you have to treat that injury differently," said Dr. Alizadeh, who noted that 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, and that hospitalizations have increased 86 percent in the last 20 years. "The injuries can be devastating."

The study was published by the American College of Plastic Surgeons, which educates and supports efforts by plastic surgeons around the world to provide the highest quality patient care while maintaining professional and ethical standards through education, research and advocacy. Dr. Alizadeh initiated the study after experiencing many referrals of patients with complicated dog bites to Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.

During the study period, 108 patients, ranging in age from five months to 18 years old, were treated in the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital emergency department after suffering dog bite injuries, with highest incidence of dog bites occurring in preschool children. The mean age for patients who required surgery was lower than the mean age for patients who underwent primary closure in the emergency department. The location of injury was most commonly isolated to the head/neck region. Of the 56 cases that had an identified dog breed, pit bulls accounted for 48.2% of the dog bites, and 47.8% of pit bull bites required intervention in the operating room.

Dog bite injuries remain a common form of pediatric trauma that requires medical attention, with potential psychological and emotional consequences. It is of utmost importance to seek care at medical centers that have available age-appropriate trauma, plastic surgery, and psychological support services.

Watch a video featuring Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh discussing the management of dog bit injuries..