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Plastic surgery for dog bites to the face: How effective is it for kids?

A person's face has always been closely connected to identity and how he or she interacts with the world.

This is not only true in a broad philosophical sense. In an age of social-media headshots, the face is accentuated even more. After all, the most widely used social platform, with more than 1.5 billion users, is called Facebook.

Dog bites that cause serious injuries to the face are therefore terribly jarring. To be sure, there is the possibility that plastic surgery can fix the cuts, gashes and lacerations from severe bites. But how effective is plastic surgery at doing that?

Children especially at risk

Dogs can and go attack people of any age. This can certainly be seen here n the San Diego area, where we rank second in the country in dog bites of mail carriers.

But young children are particularly vulnerable to dog attacks and maulings. As we noted in our March 31 post, the most common age group for dog bite injuries is children from 5 to 9.

Across the country, news reports keep coming about dog bites to the face of young children, who may then need plastic surgery.

What plastic surgery is

But how effective is plastic surgery at healing the wounds and preventing permanent scarring from dog bites suffered as children? And what is "plastic surgery," anyway?

The term plastic surgery is a bit confusing. It doesn't refer to using plastic or silicone implants. "Plastic" refers, rather, to a Greek word for molding or forming.

What plastic surgery does is try to remold or reform areas that are damaged by trauma. Plastic surgery essentially means reconstructive surgery. It is different from cosmetic surgery, which is purely elective and not a response to specific injuries.

Trying to prevent or minimize scarring

In a research study published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, the researchers found that infection is usually not a problem with dog bites. Most of the wounds can be closed with stitches, but sometimes skin grafting or plastic surgery is needed.

A severe dog bite also has the potential to cause injury to the facial nerve.

Dog bites to the faces of young children often lead to permanent scars. Repeated surgical procedures are often necessary to respond to the injuries.

In the research study we mentioned, more than 75 percent of the children had more than one surgery in an effort to improve their appearances.

Your options

In short, plastic surgery can help after a child suffers dog bites to the face. Such surgery can have a favorable effect. But multiple surgeries are often necessary to address the scars, and the surgery itself is expensive.

If your child has suffered severe dog bites, it is therefore important to understand your legal options. An attorney who is experienced in dog bites cases can explain the role of insurance in providing compensation and counsel you on how to proceed.

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San Diego, CA 92101

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