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Overview of hand infections

Sandeep Sebastin, MMed, FAMS
Kevin C Chung, MD, MS
Shimpei Ono, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Charles E Butler, MD, FACS
Marc G Jeschke, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


The majority of patients with acute hand infections are healthy and active young adults who neglect treatment for minor trauma; more severe infections are seen in patients with impaired immune status.

The initial evaluation and management of hand infection includes a focused history and examination and often involves laboratory evaluation and imaging. The area of erythema should be marked to help document progression of the infection. Empiric antibiotics should be started. Elevation of the hand and arm and application of a heat pack, along with appropriate pain control, will decrease swelling and provide comfort.

Deep hand infections are surgical emergencies. Prompt evaluation and proper treatment of hand infections can mean the difference between an excellent outcome and permanent disability.

The basic principles of evaluating and treating hand infections and considerations for specific hand infections are reviewed here. An overview of the evaluation of hand pain is discussed separately. (See "History and examination of the adult with hand pain".)


The general principles of evaluating and treating hand infections are outlined in the next few paragraphs. The specific management of bite wounds, superficial hand infections, and deep space infections are reviewed below. (See 'Bite wounds' below and 'Superficial hand infections' below and 'Deep infections' below.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 26, 2017.
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