Gangrene describes the death of infected tissue. This tissue damage may be caused by the Clostridium bacterium—most commonly, Clostridium perfringens. When this is the case, the disease is called gas gangrene or clostridial myonecrosis (myo refers to muscle, and necrosis to death). It is a rare but life-threatening
infection that occurs when these bacteria multiple and produce toxins, causing tissue injury. This condition is frequently associated with a recent surgical wound or trauma.
Signs and Symptoms
If gas gangrene develops in your child, it will probably begin with pain at the site of the existing wound. Next, your youngster may experience fluid buildup (edema), tenderness, and a worsening of the pain. Her heart rate may increase (tachycardia), along with rapid breathing, sweating, paleness, and
fever. If untreated, her condition can get worse and lead to a lowering of blood pressure to dangerous levels (hypotension), kidney failure, an impairment of her mental status, and shock.
The incubation period from the time of infection to the appearance of symptoms can be as short as 6 hours and as long as 3 weeks. In most cases, the period is 2 to 4 days.
When to Call Your Pediatrician
If there are signs of infection, particularly if associated with a skin wound, contact your pediatrician immediately.
How Is the Diagnosis Made?
Your doctor will diagnose gas gangrene based on your child's symptoms, along with laboratory tests to find Clostridium bacteria such as cultures and smears of a blood sample and secretions from the infected area.
If your child has a
skin injury, wash the area with soap and water and keep it clean. If the wound becomes seriously contaminated, visit your pediatrician or an emergency department, where they likely will flush it with water and start
antibiotics such as penicillin or clindamycin.