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Odontogenic necrotizing fasciitis: a systematic review of the literature.

Background: While odontogenic soft tissue infections of the head and neck are common, progression to necrotizing fasciitis is relatively rare. Necrotizing fasciitis is a potentially life-threatening and rapidly progressive soft tissue infection that can lead to significant skin and soft tissue loss, mediastinitis, vascular thrombosis or rupture, limb loss, organ failure, and death.

Methods: A PubMed literature search was conducted for case reports and case series on odontogenic necrotizing fasciitis. Individual patient data was analyzed and compiled and demographic, treatment, microbiology, and mortality data were extracted. Fisher's exact test was used to examine the relationship between death from odontogenic necrotizing fasciitis and diabetes mellitus (DM) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positivity.

Results: A total of 58 studies totaling 164 patients were identified. Thirty-three patients had DM and 3 were HIV +. All patients underwent aggressive surgical debridement and treatment with IV antibiotics. Twenty patients were also treated with hyperbaric oxygen. There were 16 deaths reported, for a mortality rate of 9.8%. The mortality rate among patients with DM was 30.3 and 0% among HIV positive patients. There was a statistically significant increase in the mortality rate in DM patients with odontogenic necrotizing fasciitis ( p  = 0.0001, odds ratio for death 9.1).

Conclusions: Necrotizing fasciitis arising from odontogenic infection is a rapidly progressive and life-threatening illness. Prompt recognition of the infection, aggressive and often serial surgical debridement, and aggressive broad-spectrum antibiotics are necessary to prevent serious morbidity and mortality. Patients with diabetes mellitus are at a significantly increased risk of death from odontogenic necrotizing fasciitis.

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