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Gangrene

Information retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/gangrene

YouTube Video link: https://youtu.be/y75CLDEoEkQ (Video has been reviewed by NEHH and is provided for the sole purpose of education. It is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.)

Gangrene is a medical condition that occurs from poor blood circulation. Oxygen-rich blood travels through blood vessels delivering oxygen to your body tissues and organs. When this circulation is blocked, body tissue will start to die.
Gangrene can affect many parts of your body. Even though it is more common on the skin and your arms and legs, it can also affect internal body parts. Gangrene requires emergency medical treatment!

Gangrene comes in two forms, wet and dry Gangreen.

  • Dry gangrene happens when the blood supply to a tissue is cut off. The area becomes dry, shrinks, and turns black.
  • Wet gangrene happens when bacteria invade a surface. Making the surface swell, drain fluid, and smell bad.

What causes gangrene?

Gangrene happens when the blood flow to certain tissues is stopped. Common causes include:

  • An infection
  • An injury such as a burn or combat wound
  • A chronic disease

Chronic diseases that can affect blood flow include diabetes, Peripheral artery disease, and Raynaud’s disease.

Who is most at risk for gangrene?

“People with diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and Raynaud’s disease are at higher risk for gangrene. Skin infections, injuries, burns, dog bites, and frostbite also put people at risk for gangrene.” (John Hopkins Medicine. Gangrene. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/gangrene.)

You may be at increased risk for gangrene if you have:

  • A severe injury
  • Diabetes
  • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
  • Narrowing of your arteries due to plaque build-up known as arteriosclerosis
  • An immune system disease that causes your arteries to tighten is known as Raynaud’s disease
  • History of IV drug use

What are the signs and symptoms?

You may be at increased risk for gangrene if you have:
Symptoms depend on the site where gangrene is located if you have external gangrene such as your skin, hands, and feet. You may have:

  • Severe pain, followed by loss of feeling.
  • Redness and swelling of site.
  • Crackling sounds when you press on a swollen area of skin.
  • A wound with bad-smelling drainage.
  • Change in the color of your skin. May turn red, blue, black, or white.
  • Fever and chills.

You may have internal gangrene, such as your organs. You may have experienced:

  • Fever and chills.
  • Confusion.
  • Dizziness.
  • Severe pain.
  • Rapid heartbeats and breathing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Diagnosing gangrene

This condition may be diagnosed by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your symptoms and medical history.
  • A physical exam by a physician.
  • Imaging such as CT scans, MRIs, and arteriograms.
  • Testing samples of wound drainage for bacteria (cultures)
  • Testing samples of tissue for cell death (biopsy)
  • Surgical intervention may be needed to look for gangrene inside your body.

Treatment

Gangrene is usually treated in a hospital setting. Your healthcare team will figure out the best treatment for you based on your conditions. It may include one or more of these procedures:

  • Antibiotics. Used for wet gangrene, antibiotics can be used to kill bacteria in the affected area.
  • Surgical removal of dead tissue is known as debridement. It can help keep gangrene from spreading to healthy tissue.
  • In some cases, where gangrene is widespread, surgical amputation may be required.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves treatment in a chamber designed to provide high levels of oxygen.
  • Supportive care with IV fluids, pain medicine, and blood thinners to prevent blood clots.

Summary

  • Gangrene is a medical condition that occurs from poor blood circulation. Oxygen-rich blood travels through blood vessels delivering oxygen to your body tissues and organs. When this circulation is blocked, body tissue will start to die.
  • Gangrene requires emergency medical treatment. Treatment may include hospitalization, antibiotics, and surgical procedures.

As always! We are here to help. At NEHH we strive to provide education and make information readily available. This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.
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References

Gangrene. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2019, November 19). Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/gangrene

Mediklaas the passion to learn. (2021, May 2). Gangrene – an overview. YouTube. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://youtu.be/y75CLDEoEkQ

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