Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Disease)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is the prognosis (outcome) for patients with necrotizing fasciitis? What are complications of necrotizing fasciitis?

Untreated necrotizing fasciitis has a poor prognosis; death or severe morbidity (for example, limb loss) is the frequent outcome. Even with appropriate treatment, the mortality (death) rate can be as high as 25%. Infection with MRSA and other multidrug-resistant organisms tends to have higher morbidity and mortality rates. Combined mortality and morbidity (for example, limb loss, scar formation, renal failure, and sepsis) for all cases of necrotizing fasciitis has been reported as 70%-80%. Cases of Fournier's gangrene have reported as high as 75% mortality rates, while cases of Vibrio vulnificus-associated necrotizing fasciitis have about a 50% mortality rate. Fortunately, Vibrio vulnificus infection is relatively uncommon, but the incidence seems to be increasing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2007, made Vibrio vulnificus infection a reportable disease so the statistics on the incidence (frequency of occurrence) should be more easily obtained in the future.

The worst complication of this disease is rapid advancement that results in death. Other serious complications include tissue loss requiring surgical removal and amputation to limit disease, as well as sepsis, kidney failure, and extensive scarring.

What are some additional sources of information on necrotizing fasciitis?

"BBB - Aeromonas hydrophila," U.S. Food and Drug Administration

"Dermatologic Manifestations of Necrotizing Fasciitis," Medscape.com

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

Maynor, Michael E. "Emergent Management of Necrotizing Fasciitis." Medscape.com. Nov. 13, 2013. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/784690-overview>.

"Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria)." WebMD.com. Feb. 10, 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria-topic-overview>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Necrotizing Fasciitis: A Rare Disease, Especially for the Healthy." June 28, 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/features/necrotizingfasciitis/>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2016

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