Gas Gangrene & Necrotizing Fasciitis

Gas gangrene and necrotizing fasciitis are acute infections that develop quickly and involve the skin and muscle tissue. These infections occur spontaneously, after an injury, or following surgery.

The bacteria that cause these infections thrive in areas with low oxygen levels, such as those that may occur in the tissues after injury or surgery. While many wounds have these bacteria in them only about 3 percent develop into an infection. The bacteria produce toxins that break down tissues and blood cells and can make a person sick very quickly. This process can be arrested with antibiotics, surgery and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO2).

Treatment
Typically a patient will receive one or two 2 hour treatments each day for as many days as is required to help fight the infection. During this time the patient will have surgery to remove any dead tissue and to remove any dead tissue and receive doses of antibiotics.

The HBO2 will work by increasing the oxygen levels in the tissues and killing the bacteria that live in the low oxygen environment. The need for HBO2 will be assessed on a day by day basis taking into account blood tests, temperature and the appearance of the wound.

How it all works
The normal air we breathe contains 21 percent oxygen This can be improved by breathing 100 percent oxygen via a mask, hood, or if very ill, assisted by a ventilator.

We can increase the body’s oxygen supply by a further two or three times by entering a hyperbaric chamber and receiving 100 percent oxygen at increased pressure. Oxygen delivered in this manner can be ‘dissolved’ into the blood stream and body tissues far easier than if we did not use pressure.

Preparations for treatment
As patients suffering with these types of infections are sometimes quite ill, they will either be treated from a ward or given specialist one to one treatment in ICU. In each area the nurses will prepare the patient for the treatment using a checklist relevant to the hyperbaric environment. Items such as clothing, wound dressings and drips will be organized to be compatible for use in the chamber.