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The best gangrene treatment depends on the type of gangrene, the cause, and the extent of the tissue death. To select the best treatment, patients need to communicate clearly with their care teams to learn about their options. It can be beneficial to ask for second opinions to get more information and asking numerous questions is strongly recommended. Medical professionals want to help their patients make informed choices and they will be happy to provide people with as much information as possible.
Gangrene is a blanket term for medical conditions involving extensive tissue death. There are a number of things that can lead to tissue death including infections, injuries, and cardiovascular disease. The cause has a direct impact on treatment options; someone with a condition like dry gangrene, caused by blockage of bloodflow to an area of the body, will not benefit from antibiotics used in the treatment of wet gangrene, for example.
When diagnosed with gangrene, patients should ask what caused the gangrene to develop. They should also get information about how far the tissue death has spread. A doctor can inform a patient about the reversibility of the damage as well. Along the margins, it may be possible to promote the growth of healthy tissue after the dead tissue is cleared away, especially if the gangrene is caught early.
Typical treatments for gangrene include removal of the dead tissue, known as debridement, and wound care to reduce the risks of infection and keep the site clean. Surgery may be needed for debridement if the injury is deep. One option available to some patients is maggot therapy, where maggots are used to clear the dead tissue and leave the healthy tissue intact. While this may sound gruesome, it can be a highly effective gangrene treatment.
Patients may also need to discuss the possibility of amputation as a gangrene treatment. If the tissue death is widespread, it may be impossible to salvage a limb. In the case of a form of gangrene known as necrotizing fasciitis, amputation may be required to prevent the spread of the tissue death. Patients considering amputation can ask to meet with a rehabilitation specialist to discuss what will happen after amputation, and to make decisions about the site of the amputation to make it easier to fit and use a prosthetic device.
Another gangrene treatment option is sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to promote bloodflow to the extremities. This can help people heal from a bout of gangrene, in addition to limiting the spread of tissue death. Medications like antibiotics can be used to control infections that cause gangrene. Other medications and surgeries may be available to address issues like cardiovascular disease, with the goal of addressing the restricted blood flow and preventing additional tissue death.
When discussing treatment options, patients should ask about available treatments and their effectiveness. It is advisable to ask about all options and their alternatives. Patients may also want to ask if there is a specific gangrene treatment option a doctor recommends.
The best gangrene treatment is prevention. People at risk for gangrene should monitor their bodies carefully for early warning signs like dulling skin, numbness, and aching to identify restricted bloodflow before gangrene sets in. In the wake of injuries, wounds should be kept scrupulously clean and checked for signs of spreading and inflammation. People prone to bedsores, another form of gangrene, can reduce their risks by using supportive padding, turning regularly, and inspecting or asking a health care provider to inspect the body for signs of bedsore development.
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