Gas gangrene

  • 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.