Table Of Contents:
and risk factors
Signs and tests
Calling your health care
tissue infection - clostridial; gangrene - gas; clostridial infection
of tissues; clostridial myonecrosis
A severe form of gangrene (tissue death) caused by Clostridium perfringes
(see also necrotizing
incidence, and risk factors:
Gas gangrene occurs as a result of infection by Clostridium species
of bacteria that under anaerobic
(low oxygen) conditions, produce toxins
that cause the tissue death and associated symptoms.
Gas gangrene generally occurs at the site of trauma or a recent surgical
The onset of gas gangrene is sudden and dramatic. Inflammation begins at
the site of infection as pale
to brownish-red extremely painful tissue swelling.
Gas may be felt in the tissue as a crackly sensation when the swollen area
is pressed with the fingers. The margins of the infected area expand so
rapidly that changes are visible over a few minutes of time. The involved
tissue is completely destroyed.
Clostridia species of bacteria produce many different toxins, four of
which (alpha, beta, epsilon, iota) are all fatal. In addition they cause
tissue death (necrosis),
destruction of blood (hemolysis),
local decrease in circulation (vasoconstriction),
and leaking on the blood vessels (increased vascular permeability). These
toxins are responsible for both the local tissue destruction and the systemic
symptoms (the other symptoms throughout the body).
Systemic symptoms develop early in the infection. These consist of sweating,
If untreated the individual develops a shock
- like syndrome with decreased blood
and finally death.
Clean any skin injury thoroughly. Watch for signs of infection such
as redness, pain, drainage, or swelling
around the wound,
and consult the health care provider promptly if these occur.
Note: Symptoms usually begin suddenly and rapidly and progressively worsen.
Signs and tests:
may be present, as evidenced by general pallor,
cold extremities, low
blood pressure, and rapid
heart rate. Air in the tissues (crepitus)
may be felt. Infection involving the entire body (systemic
toxicity or sepsis)
may develop. Yellow
skin color associated with the excessive breakdown of blood cells (jaundice)
A gram stain of fluid from the infected area shows gram positive rods and
tissue and/or fluid culture reveals Clostridium species.
scan, or MRI
of the area shows gas in the tissues.
Prompt surgical removal of dead, damaged and infected tissue (debridement)
is necessary. Amputation may be indicated to control the spread of infection.
preferably penicillin-type, should be given. Initially, this is given intravenously
(through a vein). Analgesics
may be required to control pain.
oxygen has been tried with varying degrees of success.
Gas gangrene is progressive and often lethal. Immediate medical attention
your health care provider:
Call your heath care provider if signs of infection occur at any time
around a skin wound;
including pain, swelling,
redness, drainage of pus or blood, fever,
or similar symptoms.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as
911) if symptoms indicate gas gangrene. This is an emergency condition
requiring immediate medical attention!
[Alternative names] [Definition]
[Causes, incidence, and
risk factors] [Prevention] [Symptoms]
[Signs and tests] [Treatment]
[Expectations (prognosis)] [Complications]
[Calling your health care
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