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Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is gangrene?

Gangrene is a condition that happens when tissue dies. Gangrene may be caused by conditions that stop blood flow, or a bacterial infection. Blood flow to tissues may be stopped by a blood clot or narrowed blood vessels. Bacteria may get into tissue through an incision or a wound, such as a burn, gunshot, or ulcer. Gangrene most commonly affects the hand, fingers, arm, foot, toes, or leg. Gangrene is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment.

What increases my risk for gangrene?

What are the signs and symptoms of gangrene?

Gangrene usually begins with fever, pain, and swelling. The pain and swelling usually 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. You may have a fast heartbeat and feel weak or dizzy. If the infection spreads, you may be confused or lose consciousness.

How is gangrene diagnosed and treated?

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

How is gangrene treated?

Gangrene is treated with surgery to remove the dead tissue. In severe cases, part of your arm or leg may also be removed. You may be given antibiotics to treat an infection. You will be given medicine to decrease pain and fever. Conditions that cause poor blood flow will also be treated. After surgery, you 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 body, you may need other treatments.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Monoplace Chamber

Treatment options

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

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How can I help prevent gangrene?

What can I do to care for myself?

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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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