Treating Gangrene: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

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Treating Gangrene: 9 Steps (with Pictures)
Treating Gangrene: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

Gangrene is a serious condition and it is very important that you get medical treatment as soon as possible if you have contracted this condition. The longer you wait to seek medical attention for gangrene treatment, the less likely you are to make a full recovery. Treatment for gangrene usually consists of removing dead tissue as a result of the condition, administering antibiotics, and using other therapies, such as oxygen therapy and maggot therapy. In this article you will find information about how gangrene is treated so that you know what to expect when you have to undergo such a treatment.


Method 1 of 2: Seek medical help

Treat Gangrene Step 1

Step 1. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have gangrene

Gangrene can be caused by skin problems or changes, or in some cases the result of complaints of reduced blood flow (blockage of the blood vessels in the lower legs and feet). All different types of gangrene require medical treatment. If you suspect you may have developed dry gangrene, even if you are only experiencing mild symptoms, you should still see your doctor as soon as possible. Dry gangrene is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Dry and shriveled skin that flakes easily
  • Bluish or blackish colored skin
  • Cold, numb skin
  • Pain (sometimes, but not always present)
Treat Gangrene Step 2

Step 2. If you have wet gangrene, go to the emergency room at your nearest hospital immediately

Although all forms of gangrene require prompt medical treatment, wet gangrene is much more likely to get an infection. Such an infection is a lot more difficult to treat when it gets into your blood. Injuries sustained can also result in wet gangrene, so you should receive immediate medical treatment for this reason as well. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice the following symptoms of wet gangrene.

  • Swelling and pain in the wound area
  • The skin is discolored from red to brown to black
  • Blisters or sores accompanied by a very unpleasant odor of decaying tissue and exudate (pus)
  • Fever
  • General malaise
  • A cracking sound when you press on the wound area
Treat Gangrene Step 3

Step 3. Watch for serious symptoms

If you have been diagnosed with gangrene, there are a number of symptoms that may indicate that your blood has become infected and require immediate medical attention. Immediately call the emergency number (in the Netherlands 112) or go to the Emergency Department if you notice one of the following symptoms:

  • Low bloodpressure
  • fast heart rate
  • Breathing problems or shortness of breath
  • A sudden change in body temperature
  • Pain in your body
  • Skin rash
  • Confusion and/or dizziness
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin

Method 2 of 2: Treatment options

Treat Gangrene Step 4

Step 1. Take antibiotics and other medications as instructed

The doctor may give the antibiotics through an IV or instruct you to take oral antibiotics as part of the treatment. You may also be given drugs to control your blood sugar, as controlling blood sugar and glycemic control in the short term improves long-term outcomes in healing and preventing infections. Follow the doctor's instructions regarding the intake of antibiotics and other drugs that help treat gangrene.

  • If you experience side effects or feel that you no longer need the medication, you should consult your doctor before deciding to stop taking it.
  • Do not stop taking antibiotics until you have completed the full course. If you do not complete the course, there is a good chance that the antibiotics will not be effective, making treatment of the infection more difficult in the future.
Treat Gangrene Step 5

Step 2. Undergo debridement and wound irrigation

Wounds with dead tissue, contamination or residual suture require debridement before other procedures are applied. Wound irrigation is important for removing the bacterial contamination and loose particles.

  • Surgical debridement involves removing dead or unwanted tissue using a scalpel or scissors.
  • Enzymatic debridement involves the application of various enzymes to the wound surface.
Treat Gangrene Step 6

Step 3. Undergo oxygen therapy

Sometimes oxygen therapy can be used to promote the healing of damaged skin tissue. For this treatment you will be placed in a special room that is filled with oxygen. The oxygen concentration in this room is much higher than in a normal environment and is thought to speed up the healing process and make it more effective.

  • Oxygen therapy can aid in wound healing and help reduce the amount of tissue that needs to be removed.
  • Oxygen therapy has also been found to be very useful in the treatment of surgical wound infections where bacteria from the Clostridium family cause gas gangrene. This is a form of gangrene that develops in the body.
Treat Gangrene Step 7

Step 4. Consider other therapies

Biosurgical therapy, such as maggot therapy, has been used to treat ulcers, chronic venous ulcers, and other acute and chronic wounds. Recombinantly produced growth factors are now being explored as a potential treatment for wounds. These factors include platelet-produced growth factors, fibroblast growth factors, and granulocyte-macrophage stimulating growth factors. The doctor may suggest one of these treatments to aid the healing process.

Try to keep an open mind when approaching maggot therapy. Sterile lab-grown maggots are used fairly regularly in the treatment of gangrene. Since maggots only eat dead tissue, they can be placed in the wound area so that they can remove the diseased tissue. This process can also help your body heal on its own and prevent infections

Treat Gangrene Step 8

Step 5. Discuss amputation with the doctor

Surgery may also be necessary to remove damaged tissue. If this tissue is not removed, the gangrene will likely spread and affect the rest of the body, eventually leading to death. It may therefore be necessary to have a finger, toe, foot or other limb amputated during the treatment of gangrene.

Be aware that even when doctors have successfully managed to open an artery and restore blood flow through interventions, in most cases dead tissue still needs to be surgically removed

Treat Gangrene Step 9

Step 6. Treat the condition that causes the gangrene to develop

Possible causes of gangrene include diabetes, atherosclerosis of the extremities, peripheral artery disease, smoking, injury, obesity, and Raynaud's disease. It may be necessary to treat the underlying condition with drugs or surgery to restore normal blood flow to the affected tissue and improve your future health. Discuss treatment options with your doctor.


  • Do not attempt to treat gangrene yourself. Gangrene will only get worse if you do not receive medical treatment from medical professionals. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have gangrene, regardless of its type.
  • Always consult your general practitioner or the attending physician at the Accident and Emergency Department for wound care and gangrene of ischemic limbs.

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