Necrotising fasciitis (NF) is situated with myositis and myonecrosis at the severe end of a spectrum of skin and soft tissue infections but is far removed from erisepelas, impetigo and cellulitis. Inexperienced clinicians are easily misled by the protean manifestations of infection, especially exotoxin or superantigen mediated consequences from streptococcal NF. Early clinical suspicion and surgery are key to improving survival, and patients with NF need integrated multidisciplinary management, adjusted to the infecting organism(s), the site of infection, and the effects from any toxins produced. A multiparametric approach, incorporating various clinical and laboratory parameters, can aid aggressive management. This review describes the diagnosis and management of the major types of NF, emphasising important aetiological clues from the history and the appropriate usage of diagnostic investigations. The potential benefits of controversial therapeutic approaches, including hyperbaric oxygen and intravenous immunoglobulin, are discussed.
Copyright 2010 The Hospital Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.