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Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1994 Nov;24(6):1249-74.

The emergency care of traumatic wounds: current recommendations.

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Veterinary Emergency Service, Inc., Fresno, California.

Erratum in

  • Vet Clin North Am Small Animal Pract 1995 Mar;25(2):followi.


Emergency management of wounds involves examination and protection of the wound with a wet dressing (when possible) to prevent further contamination and desiccation. Analgesia (or preferably anesthesia) is provided and the patient and the wound are prepared for surgery. Copious amounts of lavage solution are used under moderate pressure. Proper and thorough debridement under irrigation is tedious and time consuming, but is the most important factor that influences subsequent wound healing. Incomplete removal of devitalized or contaminated tissue and debris are a common cause of wound infection, breakdown, and delayed healing. Wound closure is only accomplished when the veterinarian is certain that all devitalized and contaminated tissue has been removed and there is adequate skin. Covering the wound to heal by second intention or delayed closure should be considered more often in veterinary medicine. All too often, the wound is closed prematurely, resulting in dehiscence and infection a few days later. This provides a source of complications to the pet, as well as a source of dissatisfaction for the client. If, after initial debridement and irrigation, there is any doubt about the advisability of surgical closure, the clinician should cover the wound with a proper dressing and continue daily (or more often) dressing changes with local irrigation and debridement as required. Drainage of wound fluid is critical to healing in contaminated wounds. Wound fluids interfere with healing and increase the likelihood of infection. Passive drains (Penrose) are frequently used, often incorrectly. The exposed end of passive drains should be covered with a sterile, absorbent dressing. Active drainage is more efficient than passive drainage and can be accomplished with minimal additional skill and material. Improper use of drains can cause more problems than no drainage at all. Patients suffering painful traumatic (or surgical) wounds should receive analgesic medications. The patient's response to pain may cause immunocompromise, resulting in increased infection rate. It may also induce a hypermetabolic state that may result in impaired wound healing, multiple organ dysfunction, and, possibly, death. Swelling in the area of wounds can create tension on the wound, which compromises the blood supply. Light pressure bandages are recommended to minimize swelling. Nutritional considerations should be given to the wounded patient. Additional protein, vitamins, and minerals may be required for immune function and wound repair.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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