A stitch too early

Quake survivors face infected wounds

Published: Thursday 15 December 2005

Stitched up As aid material reaches areas hit by the October 8, 2005, earthquake in Pakistan, there is an increased outflow of patients. Infections in wounds stitched badly after the quake has turned into a serious threat. A case in point is Ali Asghar, an eight-year-old from Balakot, who was operated upon for a fractured skull and leg at Manshera. But he had to be taken to Karachi for neuro surgery at the Civil Hospital Karachi for an infected bone in the leg, according to Shafiq-Ur-Rehman, professor of surgery at the hospital.

"The death toll will increase manifold since proper prophylaxis for tetanus was not given to most patients. There were chances of an out break of epidemic of various infections which might increase as the weather worsens," Rehman warned. "Unfortunately, all the patients coming to us had stitches. When you stitch up an infection, you create a culture media for bacteria to multiply and spread, with serious consequences." The wounds should not be stitched as it makes them-worse and might also lead to amputa-tion.These stitches have been administered by paramedics and volunteers.

Naveed Shah, general and trauma surgeon, agrees, saying, "The ratio of killed and injured patients in such a catastrophe is 1:6. Many patients might lose their lives and limbs unless proper treatment is provided." Debris, sand and foreign elements were present in the wounds of such patients which ought to have been washed and made sterile over five to six days, he adds. A large number of patients with gangrene have either died or had their limbs amputated.


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