General Illness Information

Medical Term:


Common Name: None Specified

Description: Gangrene is a dead or necrotic tissue and it is usually followed by infection. Gangrene develops when the blood supply to an affected part is cut off because of various factors including infection, vascular disease or trauma. It can involve any body part, but the commonest sites are the extremities. Can be most dangerous when gangrene affects the intestines or stomach.

Gangrene results from an infection caused by clostridia and sometimes by other bacteria. Clostridia are a type of bacteria called anaerobic bacteria, which grow only in the absence of oxygen. Clostridia produce gas as they grow, so the infection is sometimes called gas gangrene.

There are two types of gangrene: Dry gangrene – without bacterial infection and wet gangrene – with bacterial infection. Gas gangrene is a form of wet gangrene.

Causes: Gangrene is caused by interruption of blood  supply to an area which causes necrosis (tissue death) and this is usually followed by a bacterial infection. Causes of gangrene are as follows: Trauma caused by accident or surgery or crash injury; Blood clot in an artery.; Hardening of arteries; Severe frostbite.

Prevention: Gangrene may be prevented by taking the following precautions: 1) Seek medical advice for signs of infection (warmth, swelling, redness, pain or tenderness) in a skin injury. 2) Avoid trauma. 3) If you have diabetes, adhere closely to your treatment program to control diabetes. Examine your feet often for signs of unhealthy tissue. Keep your nails trimmed. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Black skin with dead underlying muscle and bone;
  • Crepitation of the skin. This feels like pressing on air bubbles under the skin;
  • Swelling;
  • Pain or loss of sensation in affected area;
  • Foul smelling discharge from ulcers in dead tissues;
  • Moderate fever up to 101(F (38.8(C) with infection;
  • Rapid pulse.

Risk Factors

  • Poor blood circulation;
  • Diabetes mellitus;
  • Smoking, which impairs blood circulation;
  • Excess alcohol consumption, which interferes with blood-vessel function;
  • Older age.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis of gangrene is often made from the clinical presentation. Tests such as x-rays, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help determine the amount of gas and the extent of tissue damage. Other laboratory tests  include blood work and  culture and sensitivity test  of the fluid samples from the wound.

General Measures:

  • Hospitalization is necessary for treatment;
  • Efforts must be made to improve circulation to impaired area;
  • Surgery to remove dead tissue, sometimes by amputation.


  • Antibiotics usually intravenously in the early stages to fight infection;
  • Pain relievers;
  • Anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting.


Rest in bed until gangrene stops progressing and healing begins. Then resume activity gradually. Physical therapy, if amputation is necessary.


  • Eat a high-protein, high-calorie diet while your body is repairing damaged tissue (except in diabetes);
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements, including zinc;
  • Drink adequate fluids (6 to 8 glasses daily).

Possible Complications:

  • Blood poisoning;
  • Shock;
  • DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation), a blood-clotting disorder;
  • Limb amputation to prevent death.


Usually curable in the early stages with antibiotic treatment and surgery to remove dead tissue. Without treatment, gangrene may lead to fatal infection.


Nothing Specified.

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