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Gangrene

(Dry Gangrene; Gas Gangrene; Organ or Tissue Death; Wet Gangrene)

Definition

Gangrene is the death of body tissue from lack of blood. There are two types:

  • Dry—lack of blood causes the tissue to die
  • Wet—bacteria infect the tissue

Causes

It is caused by a lack of blood to tissues in the body.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Symptoms start slow and then get worse. They may be:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Pain with later loss of feeling in the body part
  • Sores or blisters that leak a bloody or bad smelling fluid
  • Cold or pale skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fever and chills
  • Lack of hunger
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast heartbeat

Gangrene of the Foot
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests will be done to check for infection. Discharge and tissue may also be tested.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

Some people may need surgery to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment depends on how much tissue has died and whether it has spread.

Medicine

Medicine may be given to treat infection and ease pain.

Surgery

Some people may need surgery to:

  • Remove dead tissue
  • Remove a body part
  • Allow blood to flow

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Some people may be helped by hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This is breathing 100% oxygen in a sealed chamber. It may improve blood flow and oxygen levels in the body.

Prevention

To lower the chance of gangrene:

  • Manage health problems.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Care for cuts, sores, or wounds right away.
  • Protect skin from extreme cold.
RESOURCES:

American Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Diabetes Canada
http://www.diabetes.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Clostridial myonecrosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/clostridial-myonecrosis. Updated October 27, 2017. Accessed October 31, 2019.

Gangrene. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/infectious_diseases/gangrene_134,151. Accessed October 31, 2019.

Gangrene. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gangrene/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Updated August 16, 2018. Accessed October 31, 2019.

Sepsis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sepsis-in-adults. Updated October 4, 2018. Accessed October 31, 2019.

Stevens DL, Bisno AL, et al. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft tissue infections: 2014 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Jul 15;59(2):e10-52.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 10/31/2019