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Can you please explain gangrene?



"Gangrene" is the medical term for death of tissue (necrosis) in part of the body. It's a serious condition that requires immediate medical care.

There are several types of gangrene. Symptoms depend on the location and cause. Causes include:

  • Serious injury
  • Diabetes
  • Blood vessel disease, such as arteriosclerosis
  • Surgery

A doctor may confirm a diagnosis of gangrene by signs and symptoms. Additional tests, such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT), may be needed to determine the extent of the gangrene. Surgery also may be recommended to confirm and assess gangrene.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. However, treatment can't revive dead tissue. Surgery or amputation often is needed to remove dead tissue.

Type of gangrene: An overview
Type What is it? What does it look like? How is it treated?
Wet gangrene, or moist gangrene Sudden interruption of blood flow such as due to burns, freezing, injury or blood clot. Wet gangrene spreads very quickly and can be fatal. The affected tissue may appear badly bruised, swollen or blistered. It may also become infected. Treatment of the underlying cause when possible
Dry gangrene Insufficient blood flow through the arteries such as due to atherosclerosis or blood clots. It usually doesn't involve infection. The affected tissue becomes shriveled, dry and dark. Treatment of the underlying cause when possible
Gas gangrene Infection with certain types of bacteria, such as clostridium. It typically occurs at the site of a recent injury or surgery. The bacteria rapidly destroy muscle and surrounding tissue. Swelling around skin injury. Skin initially looks pale and then turns dark red or purple in color. Intravenous antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Internal gangrene Interrupted blood flow to abdominal organs, such as the intestines, gallbladder or appendix. Signs and symptoms may include persistent or severe pain, fever and gas in tissues beneath the skin. Treatment of the underlying cause when possible

Last Updated: 06/13/2006
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