Ok, so people get gangrene infections on their extremities, it gets worse if not treated, and one end scenario is that the poor victim gets said extremity amputated.

I understand (basically) that it probably occurs more on the extremities because blood (and hence white blood cells or whatever fights infection) has to travel further to reach there…but…what if someone had an extremely infected wound on their head or neck which turned into gangrene? Is it possible? If it is possible, surely they can’t amputate someone’s head? What would they do?

Enlighten me please. :smiley:

I asked this question on another board and my friends just thought I was weird or drunk. :rolleyes: :smiley:

I think it IS possible. That’s what they use leeches and maggots for. The eat away the infected tissue, and leave the rest behind!

I mean, even if it leaves a gaping hole in your throat? Pretty gross. :x

I’m not a doctor, but my understanding is that gangrene means that dead flesh in a wound is rotting. For example, you’re on an arctic expedition and your toes get frostbitten so badly that the flesh is literally killed. Your chubbies are reduced to chunks of frozen chicken carcass. Without treatment, after a few days the microbes that inhabit your boots will begin eating your dead toes (that is, if they unfreeze enough, which is pretty likely). This is gangrene. Yucky. Eventually the infection will spread to your bloodstream, causing sepsis, internal organ failure and death.

It doesn’t have to happen to your extremities. A major wound on any part of the body, not properly treated, can become infected.

Can also happen to your innards. I had my gall bladder removed a few years ago and was told later by the surgeon that it was gangrenous. I understand that gall bladder surgery is particularly smelly and can only imagine that mine was grossly putrid. I had nightmares about the gangrene not being ‘caught’ and that it would spread to my other organs. I was sick, it was excruciatingly painful, but I didn’t realize I was close to death. Given all this, recovery was remarkably easy.

Wow, glad to hear you recovered fully.

So, hypothetically, if the gangrenous flesh wound was on your neck or scalp, then all they can do is apply maggots to it? (Because they surely aren’t going to amputate your head). And if you were in some remote Arctic region, where the availability of said maggots would be scarce (I assume again), you’d be S.O.L.


Actually they usually debride the wound, that means cutting away the necrotic or dead tissue leaving only the live stuff hopefully. Sometimes if the infection is widespread the patient will need skin grafts later. The maggot approach is not widely accepted. I’ve only read of it’s being used for skin ulcers and sores in scattered localities. Still, the maggots only consume the necrotic tissue too, like debridement, and grafts may still be needed to cover the open areas.
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.

That sums it up in a nutshell. Gas gangrene smells nasty! About the only time I got gaggy in front of a patient was when their leg was dissolving in a puddle from gas gangrene in the examining room.