Surgery to fix dog bites

September 20, 2010 3:16:58 PM PDT
Dogs are said to be man's best friends, but they can also be a source of injury.

One doctor has revived an ancient technique for treating certain kinds of dog bites.

Nearly 5-million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S.. The more serious bites mean that every twenty minutes, someone is facing reconstructive surgery.

Very often, a bite focuses on the nose, and that has led to a unique new solution.

Megan Harris is still a dog lover, despite being attacked by her friend's 160 pound dog.

"I don't know if it was just that I turned my head and it startled him or what. He just jumped up and took a nip," she said.

That nip did a lot of damage and landed Megan in surgery.

"She came in and she was missing just about half of the tip of her nose. And we don't have a lot of good reconstructions for that area," Dr. Stephen Smith of Ohio State University Medical Center said.

He decided to treat Megan by combining state of the art technology with a centuries-old surgery.

To close the wound on her nose, he had to use her forehead.

"He took an incision straight up here and removed a flap of skin. And, almost like a finger, flipped it down," Megan said.

It's a surgery first done in 600 B.C. in India and still one of the best options for plastic surgeons like smith, many of whom are seeing more dog bite cases every year.

In the 80's and 90's, 17 fatal dog attacks occurred each year. Last year, there were nearly twice as many.

For those injured in attacks, combining this ancient technique with modern technology like laser treatments often means less visible scars.

"It's pretty hard to pick up on. There's still some redness and things that take time to dissipate, but she's really going to have an excellent outcome," Smith said.

As for the emotional scars of her ordeal, Megan says spending time with her dogs is the best way to help her heal.

Tracking the number of dog bites nationally is hard to do, because cases aren't tallied up that often.

Experts do know that half of all dog bites happen in children, and most of the Injuries occur around the face or hands.


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