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Feb 10, 2014 11:32 AM EST

Cat Bites On The Hand May Be Small And Unintentional, But They Can Lead To Surgery

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Cat bites on the hand can have serious medical repercussions. In fact, one third of such occurrences lead to hospital visits, two thirds of which end in surgery, USA Today reported.

Those figures were compiled in a study by the Mayo Clinic based on treatment of 193 patients.

"The bites lead to serious infections that can require multiple hospitalizations, antibiotics and sometimes surgery," study researcher and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Carlsen told USA Today.

Bites are small and initially leave little outward signs. Since their fangs easily penetrate the thin layer of fat on a human hand, they can lead to bacterial infections within joints and tissue, according to Carlsen.

"A bite on the thigh probably isn't an issue because the cat probably just bites the fat," he said. "When the cat bites the hand, the joints and tendons are protected with fluid and there is no circulation so bacteria can grow like crazy, making treatment longer in some case."

The other problem with cat bites is they sometimes require multiple surgeries to treat. That was the case for Dawn Bothum, who first tried to self-treat a wound she suffered from her house cat, but soon could barely move her wrist. Once she admitted herself to the hospital, she had surgery every other day for two weeks, according to USA Today.

"The infection from the cat bite reached my tendon," Bothun said. "Every time they would stitch me up after flushing the wound the infection would just get worse. The pain almost drove me up the wall."

Even after Bothun recovered, her wrist hasn't yet regained its full range of motion. Being in-insured, she also has a mountain of hospital bills.

Bothun's story is somewhat reminiscent of the elbow infection experienced by Warriors F David Lee in the 2010 season. Though Lee' s injury wasn't from a cat (but from a Knick), it demonstrated how vulnerable certain body areas are to bite infections -- and how bacteria-carrying even human teeth can be.

Lee was jumping for a rebound when the tooth of Knicks F Wilson Chandler went into his elbow (and out of Chandler's mouth). For a period, doctors wondered if they'd have to "cut his triceps muscle" and subsequently end the All Star's career, Sports Grid reported. Luckily, they didn't and he recovered.

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