A few weeks ago I received a late-night phone call from a colleague — a vascular surgeon — who asked me to go see a patient he had admitted to the hospital. He was unable to go himself, and there was no time to wait… the patient had gas gangrene. As a result, his toe needed to amputated right away or he would lose his foot.
What is Gas Gangrene?
Gas gangrene is a fairly rare condition, but it is caused by very common bacteria. Usually, these necrotizing bacteria will enter through a wound — trauma, a surgical wound or other broken skin. Gas gangrene will suddenly and dramatically begin killing off tissue, which produces gas. Left unchecked, gas gangrene could eat up a leg within 24 hours. Without proper treatment, it can be deadly.
When I got the call that night, I immediately drove to the hospital and met with the patient and family. The toe itself was black and gave off a terrible odor. X-rays showed gas in the soft tissues. Delay would have been disastrous.
Unfortunately, the only option in this case was to remove the patient’s toe to prevent spread of the infection. The patient was already on strong antibiotics, but they weren’t enough to stop this infection. We couldn’t even take the time to get the patient to an operating room — I performed the operation right there at his hospital bed.
This Was Preventable
Thankfully, I was able to stop the spread of this deadly infection by amputating the toe. The sad thing, though, is that the patient had pain for several weeks leading up to that night. That day, the toe had started to turn dark… and that’s when he finally sought treatment. Had I seen him weeks earlier, chances are I could have saved his toe.
How did this all start? In this case, the patient had a callous on his foot that should have been treated.
Hopefully something like this never happens to you. But if you have foot pain, please don’t wait. See a podiatrist right away.
If you or someone you love is looking for a podiatrist in Sarasota or Bradenton, please call and schedule an appointment in our Bradenton Podiatry office or Sarasota Podiatry office. In Bradenton, call (941) 753-9599. In Sarasota, call (941) 366-2627.