Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Long-term outcomes of patients with necrotizing fasciitis.

CONTEXT: Necrotizing fasciitis is an aggressive infection affecting the skin and soft tissue. It has a very high acute mortality. The long-term survival and cause of death of patients who survive an index hospitalization for necrotizing fasciitis are not known.

OBJECTIVE: To define the long-term survival of patients who survive an index admission for necrotizing fasciitis. We hypothesize that survivors will have a shorter life span than population controls.

DESIGN: Long-term follow-up of a registry of patients from 1989 to 2006 who survived a hospitalization for necrotizing fasciitis. Last date of follow-up was January 1, 2008.

SETTINGS: A university-based Burn and Trauma Center.

PATIENTS: A prospective registry of patients with necrotizing fasciitis has been collected from 1989 to 2006. This registry was linked to data from the Department of Health, Department of Motor Vehicles, and the University Hospital Medical Records Department in January 2008 to obtain follow-up and vital status data.

INTERVENTION: None.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Date and cause of death were abstracted from death certificates. Date of last live follow-up was determined from the medical record and by the last driver's license renewal. The death rate of the cohort was standardized for age and sex against 2005 statewide mortality rates. Cause of death was collated into infectious and noninfectious and compared with the statewide causes of death. Statistical analysis included standardized mortality rates, Kaplan-Meier survival curves, and Aalen's additive hazard model.

RESULTS: Three hundred forty-five patients of the 377 in the registry survived at least 30 days and were analyzed. Average age at presentation was 49 years (range, 1-86; median, 49). Patients were followed up an average of 3.3 years (range, 0.0-15.7; median, 2.4). Eighty-seven of these patients died (25%). Median survival was 10.0 years (95% confidence interval: 7.25-13.11). There was a trend toward higher mortality in women. Twelve of the 87 deaths were due to infectious causes. Using three different statistical analytic techniques, there was a statistically significant increase in the long-term death rate when compared with population-based controls. Infectious causes of death were statistically higher than controls as well.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients who survive an episode of necrotizing fasciitis are at continued risk for premature death; many of these deaths were due to infectious causes such as pneumonia, cholecystitis, urinary tract infections, and sepsis. These patients should be counseled, followed, and immunized to minimize chances of death. Modification of other risk factors for death such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, and atherosclerotic disease should also be undertaken. The sex difference in long-term survival is intriguing and needs to be addressed in further studies.

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