Necrotizing Fasciitis: Care Instructions

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Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare infection that kills skin, fat, and muscles. It is also called "flesh-eating" bacteria. It usually affects the legs and arms. It can cause scarring and can lead to amputation and death.

This condition is treated in a hospital. Treatment includes antibiotics and supportive care. Surgery is usually needed to remove dead or infected tissue, stop the spread of infection, and repair damage. Sometimes people are placed in a chamber with high levels of oxygen. This is called a hyperbaric chamber. It helps the tissue heal.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Most people who get this condition are in good health before they get infected. You can lower your risk of infection by giving proper care to skin wounds.
    • Keep all wounds clean. This includes cuts, burns, sores, and bites.
    • If you strain a muscle or sprain a joint and get a fever, chills, and severe pain, seek medical care right away. These may be signs of deep soft tissue infection.
    • If you have severe pain and swelling and a fever, do not treat these with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. These medicines may keep you from seeing a doctor quickly when you really need to.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.