Every year, nearly five million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. Every 20 minutes, someone is injured by a serious dog bite and requires reconstructive surgery. Half of all dog bites involve injuries to children — often to the hands or face, which can be seriously disfiguring.
Ohio native Megan Harris was bitten on the nose by her friend’s 160-pound dog.
“I don’t know if it was just that I turned my head and it startled him or what. He just jumped up and took a nip,” she told a New York TV reporter recently. Unfortunately, that nip did a lot of damage.
“She came in and she was missing just about half of the tip of her nose. And we don’t have a lot of good reconstructions for that area,” says Dr. Stephen Smith of Ohio State University Medical Center.
Luckily, Smith and some other reconstructive surgeons have revived a centuries-old surgical technique and combined it with state-of-the-art technology to get patients better results with less visible scars.
New Reconstructive Surgery Technique for Dog Bites Rebuilds Smiling Faces
When a dog bite or another animal attack damages the nose, Smith uses a surgical technique first used in India in 600 B.C. Combined with laser treatment, many otherwise disfiguring injuries can be repaired to the point where the scars are nearly invisible.
To repair the missing part of Megan’s nose, Dr. Smith used tissue from her forehead.
“He took an incision straight up here and removed a flap of skin. And, almost like a finger, flipped it down,” Megan explained.
“It’s pretty hard to pick up on. There’s still some redness and things that take time to dissipate, but she’s really going to have an excellent outcome,” Dr. Smith said.
Even after her painful experience, Megan still loves dogs. She says the best way to get over the emotional scars of her ordeal is to spend time with her own dogs.
Major Injuries and Fatalities From Dog Bites Are On the Rise
Plastic surgeons like Smith warn that they’re seeing more dog bite cases every year. National statistics on dog bite injuries aren’t routinely kept, so it’s hard to get an exact total, but the numbers on fatalities tell a frightening story. In the 80s and 90s, there was an average of 17 fatal dog attacks each year. There were almost twice as many last year.
“Surgery to fix dog bites” (WABC-TV New York, September 20, 2010)