gangrene

gangrene, local death of body tissue. Dry gangrene, the most common form, follows a disturbance of the blood supply to the tissues, e.g., in diabetes, arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, or destruction of tissue by injury. A second type, moist gangrene, results from an invasion of toxin-producing bacteria that destroy tissue. Gangrene usually affects an arm or leg, but it may occur anywhere, e.g., pulmonary gangrene may follow an abscess of the lung. Treatment of gangrene includes rest and the administration of antibiotics if the gangrene is moist and bacterial invasion is present. Excision of the diseased portions of the body may be necessary and, in advanced involvement, amputation of the part. In gas gangrene, which results from the invasion of wounds by anaerobic bacteria, gas forms under the skin and a watery exudate is produced. Emergency treatment with penicillin and antitoxin is needed; without treatment, gas gangrene is invariably fatal.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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