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J R Soc Med. 1998 Dec;91(12):634-7.

Management and morbidity of cellulitis of the leg.

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Department of Dermatology, Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, UK.


Ascending cellulitis of the leg is a common emergency. An audit was conducted in two district general hospitals to determine how it is managed and the long-term morbidity, and to formulate a treatment strategy. Case notes were reviewed for 92 patients admitted to hospital under adult specialties. Mean duration of inpatient therapy was 10 days. A likely portal of entry was identified in 51/92 cases, of which the commonest were minor injuries and tinea pedis. Pathogens were rarely identified, group G streptococci being the single most frequent organism. Benzylpenicillin was administered in only 43 cases. Long-term morbidity, identified in 8 of 70 patients with over six months' follow-up, included persistent oedema (6) and leg ulceration (2); an additional 19 patients had either suffered previous episodes or experienced a further episode subsequently. Ascending cellulitis of the leg has substantial short-term and long-term morbidity. Important but often neglected therapeutic suggestions are the inclusion of benzylpenicillin in all cases without a contraindication, assessment and treatment of tinea pedis, use of support hosiery, and serological testing for streptococci to confirm the diagnosis in retrospect. The high frequency of recurrent episodes suggests that longer courses of penicillin, or penicillin prophylaxis, might be useful.

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