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Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body.
Gangrene happens when a body part loses its blood supply. This may happen from injury, an infection, or other causes. You have a higher risk for gangrene if you have:
The symptoms depend on the location and cause of the gangrene. If the skin is involved, or the gangrene is close to the skin, the symptoms may include:
If the affected area is inside the body (such as gangrene of the gallbladder or gas gangrene), the symptoms may include:
The doctor may diagnose gangrene from a physical examination. In addition, the following tests and procedures may be used to diagnose gangrene:
Gangrene requires urgent evaluation and treatment. In general, dead tissue should be removed to allow healing of the surrounding living tissue and prevent further infection. Depending on the area that has the gangrene, the person's overall condition, and the cause of the gangrene, treatment may include:
What to expect depends on where the gangrene is in the body, how much gangrene there is, and the person's overall condition. If treatment is delayed, the gangrene is extensive, or the person has other significant medical problems, the person may die.
Complications depend on where in the body the gangrene is, how much gangrene there is, the cause of the gangrene, and the person's overall condition. Complications can include:
Call your doctor right away if:
Gangrene may be prevented if it is treated before the tissue damage is irreversible. Wounds should be treated properly and watched carefully for signs of infection (such as spreading redness, swelling, or drainage) or failure to heal.
People with diabetes or blood vessel disease should routinely examine their feet for any signs of injury, infection, or change in skin color and seek care as needed.
Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC. Cellular responses to stress and toxic insults. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 2.
Lewandowski L, Caruso J, Fleming ME. Gangrene of the foot. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:931-936.
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.