Fact Checked

Gangrene is defined as a death of an area in the body. It generally arises once the blood supply to the affected region is disrupted due to various processes such as trauma, infection or vascular disease.

The condition can affect any body part but usually the fingers, toes, hands and feet.

What are the causes?

Some of the risk factors for the development of the condition include the following:

  • Trauma or injury such as a severe burn, crushing injury or frostbite
  • Wound infection
  • Ailments that disrupt the blood circulation such as diabetes, arteriosclerosis, Raynaud’s disease or smoking

What are the indications?

Trauma or injury such as a severe burn, crushing injury or frostbite.

Depending on the type of gangrene, the symptoms tend to vary.


  • The affected site turns cold and numb
  • Initially, the area turns reddened followed by a brownish discoloration
  • After some time, the area turns black and withered

Moist or wet

  • The affected site turns swollen and starts to decay along with pain
  • Localized drainage occurs with foul-smelling odor
  • Area turns black along with fever


  • The wound becomes infected with brownish-reddish drainage
  • Cracking sensation is produced if the site is pressed which is the gas released by the bacteria.
  • Area becomes swollen and blisters start to form along with intense pain.
  • If the toxin spreads into the bloodstream, it can cause fever, rapid heart rate and fast breathing.

Management of gangrene

An individual with gangrene requires prompt assessment and treatment to prevent it from spreading. A combination of antibiotics and surgery are the main forms of treatment that are highly effective. In addition, hospitalization is required.

  • Dry – restoration of the blood supply is the objective.
  • Wet – this requires debridement along with intravenous antibiotics to control the spread of the infection
  • Gas – aggressive treatment is necessary due to the rapid spread of the infection via the bloodstream that can impair the vital organs. Debridement and antibiotics are also part of the treatment.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on gangrene is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is treated, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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