Overview on gas gangrene

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Gas gangrene is a potentially dangerous form of gangrene that rapidly spreads. It is caused by a bacterial infection by the Clostridium bacteria. The bacteria releases toxins that can trigger the death of tissues and the release of gas.

Most cases of gangrene develop in cases where open wounds from injuries or surgery are exposed to bacteria.

The non-traumatic form of gas gangrene which is a rare type can develop if the flow of blood to the body tissues are disrupted and bacteria has an entry point. There is a higher risk for individuals with diabetes, atherosclerosis or vascular disease.

What are the signs?

The condition rapidly spreads that there are evident changes in the skin in just a few minutes.

The indications of gas gangrene often include:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the site around the wound
  • Air beneath the skin
  • Swelling in the site around the wound
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pale skin that rapidly turns dark red, gray, purple or black
  • Blisters with foul-smelling drainage
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Yellowish eyes and skin or jaundice (late sign)

The condition rapidly spreads that there are evident changes in the skin in just a few minutes.

In case any signs of gas gangrene are present, call for emergency assistance or bring the individual to the emergency department right away.

What are the causes?

Gas gangrene is typically brought about by the Clostridium perfringens bacterium. In some instances, the group A Streptococcus bacteria is also a possible cause. The infection arises abruptly and rapidly spreads.

Certain injuries put one at higher risk for causing gas gangrene such as:

  • Muscle injuries
  • Significantly damaged tissues
  • Deep wounds
  • Wounds contaminated by dirt or stool especially those that occur in the farm

One is also at high risk if an individual has the following conditions:

  • Frostbite
  • Diabetes
  • Open fractures
  • Arterial disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Using contaminated needles to inject substances into the muscles


The treatment for gas gangrene must be started right away. When a diagnosis is given, a large dose of antibiotics is administered intravenously.

For serious cases, it might be necessary to start treatment before diagnostic tests are carried out. Any dead or infected tissue should be removed surgically as soon as possible. The doctor will also try to fix the damaged blood vessels to improve the flow of blood to the affected site.

Reconstructive surgery such as a skin graft can be done to fix any damaged tissues. This helps fix any damage caused by the condition.

In serious cases, amputation of the limb might be required to avert the infection from widening further. When the wound has recuperated, the individual is tailored with a prosthetic limb.

In some cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is utilized to treat gas gangrene. This involves inhaling pure oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber for 90 minutes. Generally, the individual is given 2-3 treatments in a day.

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