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Key Information About Necrotizing Fasciitis

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Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is also known as flesh-eating disease. It is a rapidly progressive inflammatory infection of the fascia, with secondary necrosis of the subcutaneous tissues.

The number of cases reported for this potentially deadly infection in adults is 0.40 cases per 100,000 people/year while the incidence in children is reportably higher at 0.08 cases per 100,000 people/year.

"This aggressive and life-threatening form of cellulitis typically occurs in patients who have had local trauma to the perineum and patients with diabetes mellitus," the Medical Dictionary explains.

Intermediate Magnification Micrograph of Necrotizing Fasciitis

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Causes

Necrotizing fasciitis is commonly caused by group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria; the same type of bacteria that cause strep throat.

The scientific name of the bacterium is Vibrio vulnificus. It is a species of Gram-negative, motile, curved rod-shaped (bacillus), pathogenic bacterium of the genus Vibrio.

"V. vulnificus is the one that causes the highest number of [deaths] and is often associated with wound infections," said Kimberly Reece, a marine microbiologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

These bacteria thrive in warm salty and brackish waters. They enter humans after being consumed with raw seafood.

They can be passed from person to person through close contact, such as touching the wound of the infected person.

Infection can also occur from surgery, childbirth, or any type of event that causes a trauma to the body.

Brenna McIntosh, a 29-year-old Melbourne resident, underwent the routine cosmetic procedure, also known as abdominoplasty, after losing almost 90 pounds and was left with excess belly skin, Perth Now reported in April 2022.

The surgery went without a hitch at first, she began feeling unwell eight days later.

Doctors initially thought she contracted a less serious infection and she was prescribed antibiotics — but she soon took a turn for the worse.

A surgeon discovered that she had contracted necrotizing fasciitis.

For the majority of healthy people, group A Streptococcus bacteria does not pose a very big risk.

Most people who develop necrotizing fasciitis already have compromised immune systems due to issues including but not limited to diabetes, kidney disease, cirrhosis and cancer.

Fatality Rate

Necrotizing fasciitis is extremely dangerous, and it has a high fatality rate, between 20 and 80 percent.

Symptoms

First symptoms of this rare disease does not appear serious. The skin becomes warm and turns red. Patients feel as if they have pulled a muscle. They may experience flu-like symptoms.

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They may develop a small, painful, red bump. However, the red bump does not stay small. The pain worsens, and the affected area grows quickly.

Then there will be oozing from the infected area. The skin may become discolored due to decay.

Blisters, bumps, black dots, or other skin lesions may appear. Pain is worse than it appears, in the early stages.

High fever, sore throat, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, chills and general body aches are other symptoms of this serious disease.

First Symptom of Necrotizing Fasciitis

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Complications

Necrotizing fasciitis can lead to sepsis, shock, multiple organ failure, severe scarring and even death.

Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose the disease based on how suddenly the symptoms started and how quickly the infection is spreading.

The infected tissue is tested for bacteria. X-rays, CT scan, or MRI may be used to look for injury to internal organs or to find out how much the infection has spread.

[Surgeons] had to remove a five inch by six inch piece of his inner thigh. At that time, they took cultures of what was going on in there.

— Cassey Rutherford, wife of necrotizing fasciitis patient Ricky Rutherford.

CT Scan Image of Necrotising Fascitis Causing Air in Soft Tissues

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Treatment

Necrotizing fasciitis can be deadly if not treated quickly.

If the disease is suspected, an incision should be made to the level of the fascia and a probe passed along the fascial plane. If undermining of the skin occurs, immediate operation is indicated.

Infected tissue is removed through surgery. Antibiotics are given directly into a vein. Supportive treatment includes treatment to control blood pressure, fluid levels and organ functions.

Prevention

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap before preparing food or eating. Stay away from strep throat patients.

Keeping your skin intact. Clean the wounds. Get unhealed wounds and fever treated by a doctor.

Strengthen your immune system by eating healthy, natural food and doing yoga daily.

Summary

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rapidly progressive disease.

It is caused by Vibrio vulnificus.

It is very dangerous.

Sore throat is a symptom of this condition.

Risk can be reduced by washing your hands thoroughly with soap before preparing food or eating.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Necrotizing fasciitis is also known as _________.
    • liver-eating disease
    • bone-eating disease
    • flesh-eating disease
    • teeth-eating disease
  2. The number of cases reported for necrotizing fasciitis in adults is ________ cases per 100,000.
    • 0.10
    • 0.20
    • 0.30
    • 0.40
  3. Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by which bacteria?
    • Virtio vulnificus
    • Vibrio vulnificus
    • Virgo vulnificus
    • Vibrant vulnificus
  4. Necrotizing fasciitis has a fatality rate between 20 and 80 percent.
    • True
    • False
  5. Necrotizing fasciitis is not dangerous.
    • True
    • False

Answer Key

  1. flesh-eating disease
  2. 0.40
  3. Vibrio vulnificus
  4. True
  5. False

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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