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Necrotizing fasciitis.

Chest 1996 July
Necrotizing fasciitis is an uncommon soft-tissue infection, usually caused by toxin-producing, virulent bacteria, which is characterized by widespread fascial necrosis with relative sparing of skin and underlying muscle. It is accompanied by local pain, fever, and systemic toxicity and is often fatal unless promptly recognized and aggressively treated. The disease occurs more frequently in diabetics, alcoholics, immunosuppressed patients, i.v. drug users, and patients with peripheral vascular disease, although it also occurs in young, previously healthy individuals. Although it can occur in any region of the body, the abdominal wall, perineum, and extremities are the most common sites of infection. Introduction of the pathogen into the subcutaneous space occurs via disruption of the overlying skin or by hematogenous spread from a distant site of infection. Polymicrobial necrotizing fasciitis is usually caused by enteric pathogens, whereas monomicrobial necrotizing fasciitis is usually due to skin flora. Tissue damage and systemic toxicity are believed to result from the release of endogenous cytokines and bacterial toxins. Due to the paucity of skin findings early in the disease, diagnosis is often extremely difficult and relies on a high index of suspicion. Definitive diagnosis is made at surgery by demonstration of a lack of resistance of normally adherent fascia to blunt dissection. Treatment modalities include surgery, antibiotics, supportive care, and hyperbaric oxygen. Early and adequate surgical debridement and fasciotomy have been associated with improved survival. Initial antibiotic therapy should include broad aerobic and anaerobic coverage. If available, hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be considered, although to our knowledge, there are no prospective, randomized clinical trials to support this. Mortality rates are as high as 76%. Delays in diagnosis and/or treatment correlate with poor outcome, with the cause of death being overwhelming sepsis syndrome and/or multiple organ system failure.

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