Aggressive surgical management of necrotizing fasciitis serves to decrease mortality: a retrospective study

Am Surg. 1998 May;64(5):397-400; discussion 400-1.


Necrotizing fasciitis is an aggressive soft-tissue infection that in the past has carried a significant mortality rate. One of the most important determinants of outcome is recognition of the disease process. This is followed by aggressive resuscitation measures and radical debridement at the initial operation to control the infectious spread at the outset. The objective of this study is to help reveal the benefits of aggressive early surgical debridement in the treatment of necrotizing fasciitis. A retrospective review of the medical records of 68 patients between the years 1980 and 1996 with the diagnosis of necrotizing fasciitis was performed. The patients were assigned to two groups, Group A (21; 31%), who had delay in therapy or inadequate preliminary therapy and Group B (47; 69%), who underwent aggressive surgical debridement from the outset. Concomitant disease processes were noted. The medical records of 68 patients were studied. Age ranged from 13 to 67 (mean, 52) years of age. There were 38 (56%) females, 21 (64%) of the patients were African-American, 24 (73%) of the patients had concomitant disease processes, 29 (42%) of the patients had a history of tobacco use, 11 (16%) of the patients had a history of alcohol consumption, and 11 (16%) of the patients were obese. Mortality in Group A was 8 of 21 patients (38%). Mortality in Group B was 2 of 47 patients (4.2%). The difference in mortality was found to be statistically significant (P = 0.0007). Early recognition and expeditious initial wide excision and debridement along with appropriate antibiotic coverage and support of systemic effects of necrotizing fasciitis serve to decrease morbidity and mortality. We believe the above is an absolute necessity followed by frequent washing and minor debridement of the wound until granulating tissue is observed. This can then be followed by procedures to close/cover the surgical defect (i.e., split-thickness skin grafts or various coverage flaps).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Debridement / methods
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing / mortality
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents