Treatment for Gangrene

Gangrene is a complication of conditions that reduce blood flow to tissues of the body, including arteriosclerosis, diabetes and wound infections. It results in tissue death which can spread as more and more tissue is compromised. Treatment for gangrene is generally aggressive because the condition is life-threatening. The main goal of treatment for gangrene has always been to stop the spread of tissue death. If the gangrene is extensive, or if the person has significant medical problems, gangrene can result in death. Gangrene can be prevented or slowed if treatment for gangrene begins before tissue damage becomes irreversible.

Drug Treatment

Four classes of medication are used in treatment for gangrene:

* Antibiotics: generally administered intravenously to control or prevent infection

* Pain relievers: as necessary to alleviate pain

* Anticoagulants: to prevent blood clotting

* Intravenous fluids: to hydrate and replenish electrolytes

Surgical Treatment

Dry gangrene: Restoring blood supply is vital in cases of dry gangrene. Surgery is sometimes effective to re-open blocked arteries or to generate new pathways to get blood to the affected area.

* Wet gangrene: Surgery is performed to debride (remove dead tissue) the area, often repeatedly.

* Gas gangrene: Because the bacteria that causes gas gangrene exudes a poisonous gas, treatment for this type of gangrene is exceptionally aggressive. Generally, it involves immediate debridement with antibiotics administered to treat infection.

* Amputation: When tissue death is extensive, it often leads to amputation of extremities that are affected. This is most common in cases of diabetic gangrene and gangrene following frostbite.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Prevention is the most important treatment for gangrene, and the only one suitable for home care. Those with high risk factors, including people with diabetes and circulatory problems, should routinely examine their extremities for any signs of skin color change or injuries. Wounds must be kept clean and carefully monitored for signs of infection, and medical care sought at the first sign of gangrene.

Alternative Therapies

Some doctors have found that hyperbaric oxygen improves the prospects of wound healing as treatment for gangrene. The treatment involves delivering oxygen through a specially designed chamber. This treatment is only available at some medical centers and has the potential of causing oxygen toxicity.

Stem Cell Therapy for Gangrene

Stem cells have been successfully used as a treatment for gangrene, even in advanced cases. In a number of case studies, transplanted autologous stem cells have restored skin function, reversed damage and prevented amputation in several diabetic patients.