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Gangrene

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Gangrene may be caused by conditions that stop blood flow, or a bacterial infection. Gangrene is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment. Gangrene is treated with surgery to remove the dead tissue. In severe cases, part of your arm or leg may also be removed.

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your symptoms return or you have new symptoms.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Self-care:

  • Elevate your arm or leg above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Rest as directed. Do not return to your usual activities until healthcare provider says it is okay. It may take several weeks for you to recover.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods will help you heal. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

Care for your wound as directed:

Carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. If your wound is left open, change the packing as directed. Always wash your hands before and after you touch your wound. Check your wound every day for redness, swelling, and pus.

Prevent gangrene:

  • Care for all wounds and incisions as directed. Always wash your hands before and after you touch your wound or incision. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Carefully wash around the wound or incision with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Call your healthcare provider if your wound or incision becomes red, swollen, or drains pus. Early treatment can help prevent gangrene.
  • Manage other health conditions. This includes diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and problems with blood clotting. These conditions can increase your risk for wound infections.
  • Seek care immediately for symptoms of a blood clot or poor blood flow. Symptoms of a blood clot include an arm or leg that feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red. Symptoms of poor blood flow include an arm or leg that is cold, pale, or numb.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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