Skin and extremity loss in meningococcal septicaemia treated in a burn unit

Burns. 1994 Oct;20(5):471-2. doi: 10.1016/0305-4179(94)90047-7.


Meningococcal septicaemia is a severe systemic illness which has an overall mortality of 15 per cent. It differs from meningococcal meningitis in clinical presentation, treatment, complications and prognosis. Skin and extremity loss are particular problems seen in meningococcal septicaemia. As critical care improves more patients are being seen with these complications. We report two patients in which these complications are demonstrated. Both patients underwent multiple autogenic and allogenic skin grafting procedures for skin loss. Apparently necrotic extremities were initially treated conservatively, with good results. The total area of necrotic tissue reduced dramatically with this treatment. Despite this, however, one patient required a Syme amputation, in the other, two toes on the affected foot separated painlessly at the metatarsophalangeal joint. We also discuss some of the pathophysiology behind skin necrosis. A popular view at present is that endotoxin from the cell wall of Neisseria meningiditis initiates the release of vasoactive cytokines by the host. High levels of interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 have been associated with a greater likelihood of fatality.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Burn Units
  • Child, Preschool
  • Extremities / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meningococcal Infections / pathology
  • Meningococcal Infections / therapy*
  • Necrosis
  • Sepsis / pathology
  • Sepsis / therapy*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Transplantation