Necrotising fasciitis is a bacterial infection that attacks the subcutaneous tissue, muscle and fascia.
What causes necrotising fasciitis?
Necrotising fasciitis is caused by certain types of bacteria, normally the Group A Streptococcus bacteria.
For necrotising fasciitis to happen, someone must firstly come into contact with the bacteria, and secondly the bacteria must able to enter the body through a break in the skin.
For example, someone may cut their finger while gardening and subsequently pick up the bacteria (which can be found on any surface). The bacteria will therefore have the opportunity to get into the body’s deep tissue, where they will then reproduce. Once this occurs, a person will have necrotising fasciitis.
When the bacteria reproduce, they release a chemical that damages the flesh, muscle and nerves. The tissue will break down and die (this is called tissue necrosis in medical terms).
What symptoms does necrotising fasciitis cause?
Necrotising fasciitis will cause the following symptoms:-
- Intense pain at the site of infection with no obvious cause
- Skin that is red and hot to touch
As the infection continues, the skin will turn from red to dark red/purple in colour, and finally from purple to black. The tissue will also break down, leaving an open wound.
How is necrotising fasciitis diagnosed?
Necrotising fasciitis can be diagnosed through the clinical signs, blood tests and cultures.
The diagnostic process should begin with medical practitioners recognising the symptoms as being indicative of a severe infection. Blood tests will confirm is an infection is present as a patient will have a raised C-reactive protein (CRP) count and raised white blood cells. If abnormalities are found, cultures of the area thought to be infected should be sent to the laboratory for testing. This will confirm if a patient has necrotising fasciitis.
How is necrotising fasciitis treated?
Necrotising fasciitis is treated with intravenous antibiotics and surgical debridement. All of the infected tissue must be cut away or the bacteria will remain in the body. More than one procedure may be needed. Further treatment may be required to help the wound heal, depending upon the amount of tissue that is excised.
Can necrotising fasciitis be fatal?
If necrotising fasciitis is not treated in time, the infection will spread to the blood. This can potentially lead to septic shock and multi-organ failure. This can be fatal.
If necrotising fasciitis is not treated before these complications occur, there may be a case of medical negligence.