Hand Infections

What are the symptoms and signs of a Hand Infection?


The cardinal signs for infection at any area of the body include redness, swelling, and pain.  Hand infections present in the same way.  Because of swelling and pain hand motion is often limited.  In long standing infections spontaneous drainage of pus may be found.  At the hand other causes for redness, pain and swelling must be considered, such as a flare of arthritis (for example gout), or traumatic injury.


How are Hand Infections Diagnosed?


Infection diagnosis is made based on history and physical examination.   A history for recent penetrating trauma such as a finger laceration is common.    X-rays are often obtained to check for signs of a bone involvement.  Occasionally a Cat Scan or MRI will be obtained to look for a collection of pus which must be drained.  Blood tests that are often obtained include a White Blood Cell Count,  Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate, and a C-Reactive Protein.  These tests measure the seriousness of an infection, and can be followed to help assess treatment.  Initial measurement of blood sugar is advisable to determine if a patient has Diabetes, a condition which greatly increases the risk for infection.


Which types of Hand Infections are the most common?


An infection at the finger nail, known as a Paronychia is the most common variety of Hand Infection.  A “Felon”, less common than a Paronychia, presents with pain and swelling at the tip of a digit.  Flexor Tenosynovitis is a more serious form of Hand Infection in which pus fills the flexor tendon tunnel resulting in significant pain with finger motion.


How are Hand Infections treated?


Treatment for Hand Infections includes antibiotics, elevation, application of warm compresses, splinting, and if needed drainage of the infected part.  In more advanced cases patients require hospital admission for intravenous antibiotics and possible operative drainage of the infected area.


What type of physician should care for a Hand Infection?


Failure to treat a Hand Infection properly can result in functional loss due to persistent stiffness.  In severe cases improper treatment of a Hand Infection may lead to amputation.  Patients with a Hand Infection should be under the care of a Certified Hand Surgeon.  Certified Hand Surgeons are Plastic Surgeons, Orthopedists, or General surgeons, who completed a year of Fellowship training in Hand Surgery, and passed all of the qualifying examinations in the field.  Dr. Steven Shoen is a Certified hand Surgeon with over 21 years of experience treating hand disorders, including hand Infections.  Dr. Shoen has one office in the Edison-Metuchen area, and a second office in Monroe Township.  To schedule an appointment at either office site call 732-632-6090.