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Unfallchirurg. 2014 Feb;117(2):174-8. doi: 10.1007/s00113-013-2363-8.

[Benign subcutaneous emphysema after nail penetration. Case report and important differential diagnoses].

[Article in German]

Author information

  • 1Zentrum für Orthopädie und Unfallchirurgie, Klinikum Saarbrücken, Winterberg 1, 66119, Saarbrücken, Deutschland, ckantelberg@klinikum-saarbruecken.de.


Crepitus under the skin after penetrating injuries: harmless benign subcutaneous emphysema or life-threatening infection with gas-producing bacteria (gas gangrene because of Clostridium perfringens, crepitating cellulitis because of anaerobic Streptococcus or other coliforme bacteria)? We report a case of a 74-year-old male who developed massive crepitation of the left upper extremity and the lateral thoracic wall and mediastinal emphysema after sustaining a laceration of the left thumb and forefinger from a nail. Because there was the suspicion of gas gangrene we performed generous skin incisions of the ventral and dorsal part of the hand, the forearm and upper arm and open wound treatment. A triple antibiotic therapy was initiated. Due to fast regression of the subcutaneous emphysema and the mediastinal emphysema, continuing lack of symptoms, negative smear test results from the beginning and low infection parameters in the blood all wounds could be closed 9 days after primary surgery. The suspicion of gas gangrene was not confirmed so the diagnosis of benign subcutaneous emphysema was made.

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