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Condition

Gangrene

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Gangrene?

Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body.

What are the causes for Gangrene?

Gangrene happens when a body part loses its blood supply. This may happen from injury, an infection, or other causes. You have a higher risk for gangrene if you have:

  • A serious injury
  • Blood vessel disease (such as arteriosclerosis, also called hardening of the arteries, in your arms or legs)
  • Diabetes
  • Suppressed immune system (for example, from HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy)
  • Surgery

What are the symptoms for Gangrene?

The symptoms depend on the location and cause of the gangrene. If the skin is involved, or the gangrene is close to the skin, the symptoms may include:

  • Discoloration (blue or black if skin is affected; red or bronze if the affected area is beneath the skin)
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Loss of feeling in the area (which may happen after severe pain in the area)

If the affected area is inside the body (such as gangrene of the gallbladder or gas gangrene), the symptoms may include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Gas in tissues beneath the skin
  • General ill feeling
  • Low blood pressure
  • Persistent or severe pain

What are the current treatments for Gangrene?

Gangrene requires urgent evaluation and treatment. In general, dead tissue should be removed to allow healing of the surrounding living tissue and prevent further infection. Depending on the area that has the gangrene, the person's overall condition, and the cause of the gangrene, treatment may include:

  • Amputating the body part that has gangrene
  • An emergency operation to find and remove dead tissue
  • An operation to improve blood supply to the area
  • Antibiotics
  • Repeated operations to remove dead tissue (debridement)
  • Treatment in the intensive care unit (for severely ill people)
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy to improve the amount of oxygen in the blood

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Gangrene?

What to expect depends on where the gangrene is in the body, how much gangrene there is, and the person's overall condition. If treatment is delayed, the gangrene is extensive, or the person has other significant medical problems, the person may die.

What are the possible complications for Gangrene?

Complications depend on where in the body the gangrene is, how much gangrene there is, the cause of the gangrene, and the person's overall condition. Complications can include:

  • Disability from amputation or removal of dead tissue
  • Prolonged wound healing or the need for reconstructive surgery, such as skin grafting

When should I contact a medical professional for Gangrene?

Call your provider right away if:

  • A wound does not heal or there are frequent sores in an area
  • An area of your skin turns blue or black
  • There is foul-smelling discharge from any wound on your body
  • You have persistent, unexplained pain in an area
  • You have persistent, unexplained fever

How do I prevent Gangrene?

Gangrene may be prevented if it is treated before the tissue damage is irreversible. Wounds should be treated properly and watched carefully for signs of infection (such as spreading redness, swelling, or drainage) or failure to heal.

People with diabetes or blood vessel disease should routinely examine their feet for any signs of injury, infection, or change in skin color and seek care as needed.

Gangrene

REFERENCES

Brownlee M, Aiello LP, Sun JK, et al. Complications of diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 37.

Bury J. Responses to cellular injury. In: Cross SS, ed. Underwood's Pathology: A Clinical Approach. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 5.

Scully R, Shah SK. Gangrene of the foot. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:1047-1054.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Chronic Infection of Foot and Ankle with Lower Extremity Ischemic Diseases
  • Journal: Zhongguo xiu fu chong jian wai ke za zhi = Zhongguo xiufu chongjian waike zazhi = Chinese journal of reparative and reconstructive surgery
  • Treatment Used: Tibial Transverse Transport Combined with Antibiotic Embedded Bone Cement
  • Number of Patients: 28
  • Published —
This study evaluated the effectiveness of tibial transverse transport combined with the antibiotics embedded bone cement in the treatment of chronic infection of foot and ankle with lower extremity ischemic diseases.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Infections
  • Journal: Antimicrobial resistance and infection control
  • Treatment Used: Ionizing Radiation
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This review of the literature examined the history and future of radiation therapy in infectious diseases, especially orthopedic infections.