Necrotizing soft tissue infection is a rare but very severe type of bacterial infection. It can destroy the muscles, skin, and underlying tissue. The word "necrotizing" refers to something that causes body tissue to die.
Many different types of bacteria can cause this infection. A very severe and usually deadly form of necrotizing soft tissue infection is due to Streptococcus pyogenes, which is sometimes called "flesh-eating bacteria."
Necrotizing soft tissue infection develops when the bacteria enters the body, usually through a minor cut or scrape. The bacteria begins to grow and release harmful substances (toxins) that kill tissue and affect blood flow to the area. As the tissue dies, the bacteria enters the blood and rapidly spreads throughout the body.
Other symptoms can include:
Your doctor or nurse may diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. You may be diagnosed in an operating room by a surgeon.
Tests that may be done include:
Immediate treatment is needed to prevent death. Treatment includes:
Other treatments may include:
How well you do depends on:
This disease commonly causes scarring and skin deformity.
Death can occur rapidly without proper treatment.
This disorder is severe and may be life-threatening, so contact your health care provider immediately if symptoms of infection occur around a skin injury, including:
Always clean the skin thoroughly after a cut, scrape, or other skin injury.
Necrotizing fasciitis; Fasciitis - necrotizing; Flesh-eating bacteria; Soft tissue gangrene; Gangrene - soft tissue
Stevens DL, Bisno AL, Chambers HF, Everett ED, Dellinger P, Goldstein EJC, Gorbach SL, Hirschmann JV, Kaplan EL, Montoya JG, Wade JC. Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Skin and Soft-Tissue Infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2005;41(10):1373-1406.
Updated by: Daniel Levy, MD, PhD, Infectious Diseases, Lutherville Personal Physicians, Lutherville, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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