Gangrene (Dry Gangrene; Gas Gangrene; Organ or Tissue Death; Wet Gangrene)
Gangrene is the death of an organ or body tissue. When the blood supply is cut off, the tissue doesn't 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 off Wet gangrene—usually occurs when the tissue is infected with bacteria, tissue becomes moist and breaks down
Gas gangrene—a particular type of bacteria (
) produces gas bubbles in the tissue
Causes of gangrene include:
Infection, especially after surgery or injury Diabetes
Any condition that blocks the blood flow to the tissues (eg,
Symptoms may include:
Swelling Pain, followed by numbness when the tissue is dead Sloughing off of skin Color changes, ranging from white, to red, to black Shiny appearance to skin Frothy, clear, watery discharge Fever and chills Nausea 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 tests Tests of the discharge and the tissue X-rays
—a test that uses radiation to take pictures of structures inside the body
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body
Treatment of gangrene includes:
Antibiotics—given through an IV in a very potent form Blood thinners—given to prevent blood clots Debridement
—surgical procedure to cut away dead and dying tissue, done to try to avoid gangrene from spreading
Amputation— removal of severely affected body part (eg,
toe or foot amputation
—involves exposing the affected tissue to oxygen at high pressure
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment
To help prevent gangrene:
If you have diabetes, take good care of your hands and feet. If you need surgery, ask you doctor about taking antibiotics. This is especially true if you need intestinal surgery.
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Gas gangrene. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated June 2008. Accessed June 24, 2008.
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Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice
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Last reviewed November 2008 by
Ross Zeltser, MD, FAAD
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
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