Gangrene is derived from the Latin word gangreana and Greek word gangraina both of which mean purification of tissues. Gangrene is caused due to lack of blood supply to the tissues. A condition where the tissue dies and blood supply interrupted is called necrosis. Though the most common areas that are affected are the extremities, it can also affect the internal organs and muscles.
There are at least five types of gangrene:
Dry gangrene: This is also called senile gangrene affecting older patients. It evolves at the distal part of the limb and extends to the toes and feet. This mainly occurs due to arterial occlusion.
Wet gangrene: Wet gangrene affects tissues that are naturally moist. Organs that are affected are lungs, cervix, mouth, bowel and vulva. Bed sores are a type of wet gangrene and can affect the sacrum, heels and buttocks even if they are not wet.
Gas gangrene: Gas gangrene is caused by Clostridium perfringens bacteria which is a bacterial infection producing gas within the tissues.
Internal gangrene: When gangrene affects and infects the internal organs of the body such as the colon or the appendix, it is called internal gangrene.
Fournier’s gangrene: Fournier’s gangrene is named after a French venereologist Jean Alfred Fournier. It is a necrotizing infection of the perineum.
- Trauma or injury
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Raynaud’s phenomenon – blood vessels that supply the skin are narrowed
- Suppressed immune system eg: HIV, chemotherapy
- Cold and numb skin
- Dry and shrivelled skin
- Change in skin color from blue to black
- Change in skin color from brown to black
- Foul-smelling sores with pus discharges
- Crackling noise when area is pressed
- Swelling and pain at the infected site
- General ill-feeling
- Low blood pressure
- Severe pain in the area
Arteriogram: This is done to check for blockages in the blood vessels.
Blood tests: A WBC count is taken which may be elevated.
CT scan: This is done to scan the internal organs for abnormalities.
Culture tests: A tissue culture or fluid from the wounds is collected to check for any bacterial infection.
Biopsy: A biopsy is done to examine the tissue under the microscope to look for malignancies.
Treatment: gangrenous segment of whichever body part needs to be removed surgically.