Necrotizing Fasciitis Diagnosis: It's Time to Lead With Innovation

April 2021

Necrotizing fasciitis is a condition caused by bacteria invading the body. It's also known as "flesh-eating disease."

The bacteria most often responsible for necrotizing fasciitis are group A streptococcus, or "Streptococcus," and clostridium perfringens, or "C. perfringens." Group A streptococcus usually enters through deep cuts or wounds in the skin or from open sores on your hands if you do not wash your hands after using the bathroom. C. perfringens usually enters through foods that have been improperly cooked or left out for too long (especially meats).

Necrotizing fasciitis is usually caused by contact with infected material or with organisms in the natural environment (such as soil).

The bacteria most frequently found in wounds that cause necrotizing fasciitis are group A streptococcus. Clostridium perfringens is also often present in wounds. C. perfringens sometimes causes a group A streptococcal infection called toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock syndrome can be very serious, but most people recover completely after proper treatment and antibiotic therapy.

Some people may develop necrotizing fasciitis following a minor skin injury or after surgery where they have not washed their hands properly afterward. Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare but deadly bacterial infection of the tissue surrounding muscles, nerves, and other organs. The bacteria enters the body through a break in the skin and quickly spreads to other areas. Symptoms appear quickly and include fever, chills, red patches on an otherwise healthy-looking skin or wounds with shiny edges and redness around them.

Most cases of necrotizing fasciitis are fatal if not promptly treated with antibiotics. If you suspect that you have this condition or any type of infection in your body that doesn't get better within a few days, see a doctor right away for treatment options. Necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as "flesh-eating bacteria," is a rare but severe bacterial infection that typically affects people with open wounds. However, it can also affect people who have healthy-looking skin. The infection quickly spreads and causes death if not treated with antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), necrotizing fasciitis most commonly occurs in the abdominal or pelvic regions, but it can develop in any area of the body with an open wound or broken skin. The condition kills approximately one out of every six people who develop it.

How Does Necrotizing Fasciitis Occur?

Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by a bacterium called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This bacterium normally lives on the skin and in the nasal passages, but it can get into wounds or areas of damage to healthy skin. It gains access through small cuts or tears in the skin, but it may also enter through an object that breaks during surgery. The possibility of being infected depends on the severity of your injury and how well you tend to wound yourself. When MRSA bacteria enter these injuries, they infect healthy tissue around them. The infection can spread quickly and cause death within 12 to 24 hours. The bacteria grow in the tissue and release toxins that destroy surrounding cells.

How Is Necrotizing Fasciitis Diagnosed?

If you have an open wound or broken skin, your doctor may take a sample of the tissue around it to test for MRSA bacteria. He or she may also test a sample of your blood to find out whether the bacteria has spread to other parts of your body. In some cases, doctors may take a sample from the wound itself and send it for testing if they suspect an infection. Then they will give you medication to prevent the infection from spreading further.

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