• Gangrene

    (Dry Gangrene; Gas Gangrene; Organ or Tissue Death; Wet Gangrene)


    Gangrene is the progressive death of body tissue resulting from infection and a lack of blood supply. When the blood supply is cut off, the tissue does not get enough oxygen and begins to die.
    Gangrene can be internal or external. The 2 most common types of gangrene are:
    • Dry gangrene—Lack of blood supply causes the tissue to die.
    • Wet gangrene—Usually occurs when the tissue is infected with bacteria from an injury. The tissue becomes moist and breaks down.
    A rare wet type, called gas gangrene or clostridial myonecrosis, develops from specific bacteria deep inside the body. Gas gangrene can be a result of surgery or trauma.


    Gangrene is caused by infection or a reduced blood supply to tissues.

    Risk Factors

    Gangrene is more common in older adults.
    Other factors that may increase your chance of gangrene include:
    • Poorly controlled health conditions, such as diabetes or atherosclerosis, which may affect blood vessels
    • Health conditions or medications that suppress the immune system
    • Perforated bowel
    • Severe trauma
    • Surgery
    • Smoking
    • Obesity
    • Excessive alcohol use
    • IV drug use


    External gangrene may cause:
    • Color changes, ranging from white, to red, to black
    • Shiny appearance to skin
    • Foul-smelling, frothy, clear, or watery discharge
    • Shedding off of skin
    • Severe pain followed by loss of feeling in the affected area
    Internal gangrene may cause:
    • Fever and chills
    • Confusion
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Lightheadedness or fainting, which may be caused by low blood pressure
    If the gangrene is widespread, sepsis can occur.
    Gangrene of the Foot
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    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Tests of the discharge and the tissue
    Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:


    Treatment of gangrene includes:
    • IV antibiotics—to treat infection
    • Debridement—surgical procedure to cut away dead and dying tissue, done to try to avoid gangrene from spreading
    • Supportive care, including fluids, nutrients, and pain medication to relieve discomfort
    • Blood thinners—given to prevent blood clots
    • Surgery may also be done to restore blood flow to the affected area
    • Amputation—removal of severely affected body part
    • Hyperbaric oxygen treatment—exposing the affected tissue to oxygen at high pressure may have some benefit


    To help reduce your chance of gangrene:
    • If you have chronic health conditions, follow the treatment plan outlined by your doctor.
    • If you have diabetes, inspect your feet every day for cuts, sores, or wounds.
    • Care for any cuts, sores, or wounds promptly to avoid infection.
    • If you need surgery, ask your doctor about taking antibiotics. This is especially true if you need intestinal surgery.


    American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org


    Canadian Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    A quick summary of the 6 types of necrosis. Pathology Student website. Available at: http://www.pathologystudent.com/?p=5770. Accessed August 5, 2015.

    Clostridial myonecrosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113907/Clostridial-myonecrosis. Updated October 1, 2014. Accessed September 28, 2016.

    Fujiwara Y, Kishida K, Terao M, et al. Beneficial effects of foot care nursing for people with diabetes mellitus: an uncontrolled before and after intervention study. J Adv Nurs. 2011;67(9):1952-1962.

    Gangrene. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gangrene/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Updated January 27, 2014. Accessed August 5, 2015.

    Sepsis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115805/Sepsis-in-adults. Updated June 8, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.

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