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Necrotizing Fasciitis and Third Degree Burns (Part I)

Necrotizing Fasciitis (NF) which is also known as “flesh eating bacteria” is a serious, potentially fatal infection involving the deep layers of the skin, the subcutaneous tissue and fascia. Necrotizing Fasciitis is a rare infection caused by bacteria in which 1 out of 4 people who get the infection die from it. Based on a surveillance from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that Necrotizing Fasciitis causes 10.000 to 15.000 infections each year in the United Stated, resulting in 2000 to 3000 deaths.

There are two types of necrotizing fasciitis, Type I describes a polymicrobial infection (caused by more than one type of bacteria), it is more common and usually occurs in immunocompromised patients such as patients with chronic renal failure or diabetus mellitus whereas Type II describes a monomicrobial infection (caused by one type of bacteria), this type is less common and most type II cases are caused by Group a streptococcus. many types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis Group A streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringes, bacteriods, E coli and Pseudomonas.

Necrotizing fasciitis is characterized by rapid destruction of tissue caused by toxins released from these bacteria. These bacteria can spread from the site of infection at the skin to other areas including the bloodstream which may lead to septic shock and death therefore early diagnosis and aggressive treatment reduces the risk of complications.

The infection begins locally at the site of trauma to the skin which could be a major trauma such as the result of a third degree burn or surgery or a minor trauma such as the result of an acupuncture needle. Both the organisim that cause the infection and the patient susceptibility play a role in the development of the infection, Although there are risk factors for necrotizing fasciitis, many individuals are in a good health before getting the infection. Necrotizing fasciitis can affect any age but adults are the most affected by it, in children rare cases can occur as a complication of chickenpox.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.