Introduction and hypothesis: Fournier's gangrene is a rare, necrotising fasciitis of the external genitalia, perineal or perianal regions. The disease has a higher incidence in males and risk factors for development include diabetes, HIV, alcoholism and other immune-compromised states. The aggressive disease process is associated with a high mortality rate of 20-30%. In addition, the increasing age and prevalence of diabetes in the population, begs the need for increased clinical awareness of Fournier's gangrene with emphasis on early diagnosis and management. This review aims to highlight the relevant research surrounding Fournier's gangrene, in particular the various prognostic indicators and management strategies.
Methods: A search was conducted on the MEDLINE database for all applicable research; clinical reviews, retrospective studies and case reports. In addition to which a search of the European Association of Urology, the British Association for Urological Surgeons and the British Medical Journal was conducted for the most recent recommendations.
Results: Immediate broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy and urgent surgical debridement are the core managerial principles of Fournier's gangrene. The use of adjunctive therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen and vacuum assisted closure are supported in some aspects of the literature and disputed in others. The lack of randomized controlled studies limits the use of these potential additional therapies to patients unresponsive to conventional management. The value of unprocessed honey as a topical antimicrobial agent has been highlighted in the literature for small lesions in uncomplicated patients.
Conclusion: Fournier's gangrene is a urological emergency with a high mortality rate despite advances in the medical and surgical fields. The aggressive nature of the infection advocates the need for early recognition allowing immediate surgical intervention. The opposing results of available research as well as the lack of high quality evidence surrounding emergent therapies prevents their routine use in the management of Fournier's gangrene. The absence of a specific care pathway may hinder efficient management of Fournier's gangrene, thus based on current guidelines a management pathway is suggested.