Thursday, October 23, 2014

Table of Contents

Definition

Gas gangrene is a potentially deadly form of tissue death (gangrene).

See also: Necrotizing subcutaneous infection


Alternative Names

Tissue infection - Clostridial; Gangrene - gas; Myonecrosis; Clostridial infection of tissues


Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Gas gangrene is rare in the United States. The condition is most often caused by a bacteria called Clostridium perfringens. However, it also can be caused by Group A streptococcus. Staphylococcus aureus and Vibrio vulnificus can cause similar infections.

Clostridium is present in most environments. As the bacteria grow, they can produce gas in body tissues and produce many different toxins that can damage tissues. Under low-oxygen ( anaerobic ) conditions, Clostridium produces toxins that cause tissue death and related symptoms.

Gas gangrene generally occurs at the site of trauma or a recent surgical wound. The onset of gas gangrene is sudden and dramatic. About 1 in 5 cases occur without an irritating event. Patients who develop this disease in this manner often have underlying blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries), diabetes, or colon cancer.

Clostridium bacteria produce many different toxins, four of which (alpha, beta, epsilon, iota) can cause potentially deadly syndromes. The toxins cause damage to tissues, blood cells, and blood vessels.



Review Date: 12/01/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)