Gangrene is the death of an organ or body tissue. When the blood supply is cut off, the tissue does not get enough oxygen and begins to die. If the gangrene is widespread,
There are three main types:
Dry gangrene—lack of blood supply causes the tissue to dry up and slough offWet gangrene—usually occurs when the tissue is infected with bacteria, tissue becomes moist and breaks down
Gas gangrene—a particular type of bacteria (Clostridia) produces gas bubbles in the tissue
Causes of gangrene include:
Infection, especially after surgery or injuryDiabetes
Any condition that blocks blood flow to tissue (such as,
Symptoms may include:
SwellingPain, followed by numbness when the tissue is deadSloughing off of skinColor changes, ranging from white, to red, to blackShiny appearance to skinFrothy, clear, watery dischargeFever and chillsNausea and vomiting
Gangrene of the Foot
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include:
Blood testsTests of the discharge and the tissueX-ray—a test that uses radiation to take pictures of structures inside the body
CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body
Treatment of gangrene includes:
Antibiotics—given through IV in a very potent formBlood thinners—given to prevent blood clotsDebridement—surgical procedure to cut away dead and dying tissue, done to try to avoid gangrene from spreading
Amputation— removal of severely affected body part (such as,
toe or foot amputation,
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment—involves exposing the affected tissue to oxygen at high pressure
To help prevent gangrene:
If you have diabetes, take good care of your hands and feet.If you need surgery, ask your doctor about taking antibiotics. This is especially true if you need intestinal surgery.
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Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone; 2000.
Rosen P, et al.
Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book; 2000.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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