Gangrene

Definition

Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body.

Causes

Gangrene happens when a body part loses its blood supply. This may happen from injury, an infection, or other causes. You have a higher risk for gangrene if you have:

Symptoms

The symptoms depend on the location and cause of the gangrene. If the skin is involved, or the gangrene is close to the skin, the symptoms may include:

If the affected area is inside the body (such as gangrene of the gallbladder or gas gangrene), the symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider may diagnose gangrene from a physical exam. The following tests and procedures may also be used to diagnose gangrene:

Treatment

Gangrene requires urgent evaluation and treatment. In general, dead tissue should be removed to allow healing of the surrounding living tissue and prevent further infection. Depending on the area that has the gangrene, the person's overall condition, and the cause of the gangrene, treatment may include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

What to expect depends on:

The person may die if:

Possible Complications

Complications depend on:

Complications can include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider right away if:

Prevention

Gangrene may be prevented if it is treated before the tissue damage can't be reversed. Wounds should be treated properly and watched carefully for signs of infection (such as spreading redness, swelling, or drainage) or failure to heal.

People with diabetes or blood vessel disease should routinely examine their feet for any signs of injury, infection, or change in skin color and seek care as needed.

References

Brownlee M, Aiello LP, Sun JK, et al. Complications of diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 37.

Bury J. Responses to cellular injury. In: Cross SS, ed. Underwood's Pathology: A Clinical Approach. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 5.

Scully R, Shah SK. Gangrene of the foot. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:1047-1054.


Review Date: 9/1/2021
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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