JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Necrotizing fasciitis in children: diagnostic and therapeutic aspects.

BACKGROUND: Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is a severe life-threatening soft tissue infection characterized by rapidly spreading necrosis of the fascia and the subcutaneous tissue. Its incidence owing to invasive Streptococcus pyogenes has significantly increased in children recently. Our experience with NF in children to describe diagnostic and therapeutic aspects is hence presented herein.

METHODS: Records of children who were treated for NF in our unit from 1999 to 2006, inclusive, were reviewed retrospectively. Information recorded for each patient included medical history, clinical characteristics, diagnostic procedures, treatment methods, and the outcome.

RESULTS: Thirteen patients with a mean age of 35 months were treated for NF during the study period. All of the 13 children had no previous immunosuppression. The predisposing factors were composed of varicella lesions, intramuscular injections, application of a cream containing menthol to the cervical region, penetrant gluteal trauma, omphalitis, dental abscess, and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. The most common site of the initial involvement was the abdominal wall, followed by the gluteal region and thigh, head and neck, and upper and lower extremities. The initial skin presentations were induration or cellulitis and erythema and edema with progression to skin discoloration and bullae formation. Fever and tachycardia were the most common clinical features. S. pyogenes was the most common causative microorganism, followed by Staphylococcus epidermidis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. All patients underwent extensive surgical debridement and received appropriate antibiotics and supportive therapy. Twelve patients survived, and 1 patient with delayed diagnosis of NF died of septic shock.

CONCLUSION: Although these infections are rare in children, their lethal potential and early diagnostic signs must be recognized. All children with NF should undergo early surgical debridement to prevent delay in treatment. The mortality and morbidity associated with NF in children can be decreased with clinical awareness, early diagnosis, and adequate and urgent surgical debridement followed by intensive supportive care and early wound resurfacing.

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