With 2,000 to 3,000 patients killed by necrotizing fasciitis each year, early diagnosis of the flesh-eating bacteria is of the utmost importance. That's what Russell Russo, an orthopedic surgeon at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, and his team are stressing in the September 2012 issue of Orthopedics Today.
While the flesh-eating bacteria is relatively rare in comparison to the incidence rates of other diseases and disorders, the ratio of deaths -- at best, 2,000 out of the 10,000 to 15,000 cases diagnosed each year -- is high enough to warrant the call for earlier diagnosis.
"The infection can rapidly spread at a rate of one centimeter per hour," Russo told Orthopedics Today. "People who have their surgery and debridement within 10 to 24 hours once they hit the door, do much better than the patients for whom the diagnosis is not made for days."
Russo recommends that doctors maintain a high suspicion of the flesh-eating bacteria when treating patients with symptoms that fall in line with the infection. A physical examination is also necessary, since imaging scans such as X-rays may not detect the infection and can be quite time-consuming.