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J Burn Care Rehabil. 2003 May-Jun;24(3):127-32.

Burn center management of necrotizing fasciitis.

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US Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234, USA.


Necrotizing fasciitis is a rapidly progressive soft-tissue infection associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Necrotizing fasciitis is similar to invasive burn wound infection in that diagnosis requires histologic examination of affected tissue and treatment requires aggressive surgical debridement followed by skin autograft. Transfer to a burn center facilitates the management of necrotizing fasciitis, where requisite surgical and nursing expertise is available. We reviewed the experience of one burn center in the management of necrotizing fasciitis over a 5-year period. Ten patients were transferred to the burn center from other medical facilities for care, arriving a mean of 8.9 days after initial hospital admission. The diagnosis was made by a surgical service or consultation before transfer in all cases; initial admission to a medical rather than a surgical service delayed surgery in five cases. All patients had surgical debridement before transfer but required a mean of 5.1 additional operations at the burn center. Although the mean extent of involvement was 14.8% body surface area, the mean length of burn center stay was 34.9 days. Complications were frequent, including pulmonary failure requiring mechanical ventilation (n = 6), renal insufficiency or failure (n = 5), hypotension requiring pressers (n = 4), deep venous thrombosis (n = 3), and pulmonary emboli (n = 1). Overall mortality was 2 of 10 patients (20%). Both fatalities were associated with delay in initial surgical procedure and in transfer to the burn center. The similarity of necrotizing fasciitis and invasive burn wound infection makes the burn center the ideal setting for the treatment of this disease. We advocate the addition of necrotizing fasciitis to the list of conditions currently recognized by the American Burn Association as appropriate for burn center transfer and care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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