LEG/FOOT GANGRENE Q & A
What Is Gangrene?
Gangrene is a dangerous condition that occurs when blood supply and nutrients are unable to reach an area of the body, causing the tissue to break down and die. Gangrene most often affects the extremities but can also occur in internal organs and muscles. Gangrene is painful, can lead to amputation, and may even be fatal if left untreated.
What Are Different Types of Gangrene?
- Dry gangrene occurs when blood supply is cut off. The area becomes dry, shrinks, turns black and eventually falls off.
- Wet gangrene indicates that bacteria have entered the tissue. It is characterized by swelling, drainage, blisters, and an off-putting odor.
- Gas gangrene is similar to wet gangrene, but the bacteria forms gas bubbles, causing the skin to crackle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Leg/Foot Gangrene Patient Education
What Are Symptoms of Gangrene?
Gangrene has many symptoms and can cause unexplained pain in any area of the body. It is a serious condition and early treatment is vital. Contact your doctor if pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Skin changes including color changes (red, blue, black, pale, or bronze), swelling, blisters, crackling, sores, drainage of fluid or pus, and coldness
- Foul odor, especially from sores
- Noticeable difference between healthy and damaged skin
When bacteria from gangrenous tissue spreads to other parts of the body, septic shock can occur. Immediate medical attention is necessary if any of the following symptoms are observed:
- Low blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
What Causes Gangrene?
Gangrene occurs when blood is unable to transport oxygen and nutrients to body tissue. Blood flow issues that prevent blood flow from reaching the cells in the tissue increase the risk of infection and causes the tissue to die. Circulation problems can be caused by an infection, injury or trauma, or chronic diseases such as diabetes and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
What Are Risk Factors for Gangrene?
The risk of developing gangrene increases with the following risk factors:
- Vascular disease, such as PAD
- Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup)
- Weakened immunity
- Serious Injury or trauma including burns, frostbite, animal bites and crush injuries
How Is Gangrene Diagnosed?
A medical history and physical examination will help a medical practioner diagnose gangrene. A blood test may be ordered to see if an infection is present. Tissue and fluid samples may be taken for closer inspection and testing. If internal gangrene is suspected, imaging may be required for diagnosis, as well.
Can Gangrene Be Prevented?
Gangrene can be prevented by meticulous observation. If any wounds show signs of infection or gangrenous symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, if the patient has a condition or disease that limits blood flow, follow medical advice regarding its control and management.
Does Gangrene Need Treatment?
Yes, gangrene is a dangerous condition. Early diagnosis and medical intervention are the best chances for successful treatment. If left untreated, gangrene can lead to excessive scarring, reconstructive surgery, amputation, organ failure, and even death. Gangrene spreads rapidly, so the larger the area, the harder it is to treat.
What Are Gangrene Treatments?
A qualified healthcare team will recommend the best course of treatment for gangrene. Often, treatment is aggressive. Antibiotics may be used to treat any infection. Surgery may be required to remove the dead tissue (debridement) or to amputate the affected body part. Patients whose gangrene is a result of a blocked artery may have vascular bypass surgery or an angioplasty to fix the problem. Some patients undergo non-surgical debridement in a procedure that uses fly larvae to eat away dead tissue. Minimally invasive interventional radiology procedures may be introduced to correct circulation issues and increase blood flow, helping to prevent future gangrene. Finally, hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps promote healing by increasing oxygen levels to the affected areas.
What to Expect from Gangrene Treatment?
As an interventional radiologist who specializes in vascular disease and limb salvage, Dr. Jilbert Eradat is well-qualified to gangrene cases. Improving blood circulation can reduce the need for amputation due to gangrene. At Alliance, we use the latest protocols in minimally invasive procedures for managing challenging, high-risk cases in patients who otherwise would have no treatment option.