The evolving characteristics and care of necrotizing soft-tissue infections

Burns. 2005 May;31(3):269-73. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2004.11.008. Epub 2005 Jan 20.


Background: Necrotizing soft-tissue infections such as necrotizing fasciitis and Fournier's gangrene are a source of high morbidity and mortality. These difficult cases are increasingly being referred to burn centers for specialized wound and critical care issues. In this study, we examine our institution's recent experience with a large series of necrotizing soft-tissue infections.

Study design: A retrospective chart review was performed of 65 consecutive patients over a 5-year period with necrotizing soft-tissue infections that required radical surgical debridement.

Results: Overall survival was 83%, with an average length of stay of 32.4+/-3.32 days for survivors and for the entire group of 29.5+/-3 days. Time from onset of symptoms to initial presentation to our institution averaged 6.9+/-1.19 days. Patients averaged 2.9+/-0.22 surgical procedures, and 46% of patients required skin grafting with an average graft area of 1554+/-248 cm(2). Of the survivors, only 54% were able to return home, with 46% needing further hospitalization or transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Conclusions: There were frequent delays in diagnosis and referrals to and from within our institution, and progress can be made in educating the medical community to identify these patients. Advancements in wound care and critical care have made inroads into the treatment of patients with necrotizing soft-tissue infections. However, these infections continue to be a source of high morbidity and mortality and significant healthcare resource consumption. These challenging patients are best served with prompt diagnosis, immediate radical surgical debridement, and aggressive critical care management. Referral to a major burn center may help provide optimal surgical intervention, wound care, and critical care management.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burn Units
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Debridement / methods
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing / diagnosis
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing / surgery
  • Female
  • Fournier Gangrene / diagnosis
  • Fournier Gangrene / surgery
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Prognosis
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Soft Tissue Infections / diagnosis
  • Soft Tissue Infections / surgery*
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors