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Gangrene in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What is gangrene?

Gangrene is a condition that happens when blood flow to a tissue stops, or bacteria destroys the tissue. This causes the tissue to die. Gangrene most commonly affects the hand, fingers, arm, foot, toes, or leg. Gangrene is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment.

What causes gangrene?

In children, gangrene is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria may get into your child's tissue through an incision or a wound, such as a burn or cut. Your child is at risk for gangrene if he or she has a weak immune system.

What are the signs and symptoms of gangrene?

Gangrene usually begins with fever, pain, and swelling. Your child's pain and swelling may get worse quickly. The area of dead tissue may look brown, red, purple, or black. It may drain red or yellow fluid that smells bad. Your child may have a fast heartbeat and fast breathing. He or she may feel weak or dizzy. If the infection spreads to the rest of your child's body, he or she may be confused or lose consciousness.

How is gangrene diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine the area and take a sample of tissue. The tissue will be tested for bacteria. Your child's blood may also be collected and tested for bacteria.

How is gangrene treated?

Gangrene is treated with surgery to remove the dead tissue. Your child will be given antibiotics to treat the infection. Medicine will also be given to decrease your child's pain and fever. After surgery, your child may need hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy. HBO therapy helps the tissue heal by increasing blood flow and preventing the infection from getting worse. If the infection spreads to the rest of your child's body, he or she may need other treatments.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

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What can I do to care for my child?

How can I help prevent gangrene?

Always wash your hands before and after you touch your child's wound or incision. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Tell your child not to touch his or her wound or incision. Carefully wash around your child's wound or incision with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your child's bandages when they get wet or dirty. Call the healthcare provider if your child's wound or incision becomes red, swollen, or drains pus. Early treatment can help prevent gangrene.

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.