About Necrotizing Fasciitis

Overview

Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection that causes death to muscles, skin, underlying tissues and the covering of muscles (fascia). According to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, the cause of this infection is also referred to as “Flesh Eating Bacteria.” Medline Plus, an online medical resource maintained by the National Institutes of Health, reports that the death rate of patients with necrotizing fasciitis is high, regardless of the aggressive treatment and powerful medications available.

Causes

According to Medline Plus, streptococcus pyogenes is the bacterium responsible for Necrotizing Fasciitis. The bacterium typically enters the body through a harmless cut or scrape, but can also happen after trauma or surgery. The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation says the bacterium is most commonly transferred from person to person by respiratory secretions.

Symptoms

The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation says early symptoms include a minor cut or opening in the skin; increasingly unusual pain near the area of injury, but not necessarily at the site; flu-like symptoms; increase in thirst; and an overall feeling of being very ill. Advanced symptoms, which occur in three to four days, include pain, swelling, a purplish rash near the injury and large, dark blisters filled with black-colored fluid. According to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, critical symptoms appear within four to five days and are characterized by a severe drop in blood pressure, overall toxic shock in the body and unconsciousness.

Diagnosis

According to Medline Plus, the condition of the skin is important when the health care provider is determining a diagnosis of necrotizing fasciitis. Patients may have to undergo surgery and CT scans during the diagnosis stage. Blood, fluid and tissue testing can help identify the type of bacteria causing the infection.

Treatment

Medline Plus says potent antibiotics are administered through a vein. The infected area will be drained and cleaned by a surgeon in an attempt to get rid of the toxic or dead tissue. According to Medline Plus, skin grafts may be performed after necrotizing fasciitis is resolved. Amputation of the affected limb may be performed in an attempt to control the spread of the bacteria.

Complications

Medline Plus lists possible complications of necrotizing fasciitis as progressive tissue death, spread of infection to the blood (sepsis), scarring and disfigurement, loss of use of arm or leg, and ultimately death.

Prevention

According to Medline Plus, cleaning the skin carefully after receiving a cut, scrape or other injury is the best way to avoid contracting necrotizing fasciitis. There is no absolute way to avoid necrotizing fasciitis. The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation encourages keeping the skin clean and intact, teaching children the importance of cleanliness and taking extra precautions around people with known strep infections.

About this Author

Terri Peerenboom, R.N., began writing for Demand Studios in 2010. She specializes in health-related topics, and has written and published over 100 articles for LIVESTRONG.COM. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Texas and a Master of Arts in counseling from Sam Houston State University.