Researchers are urging doctors to be more alert for flesh-eating bacterial infections otherwise known as necrotizing fasciitis. Although relatively rare and difficult to diagnose because its symptoms often resemble other conditions like synovitis or cellutitis, a missed diagnosis can lead to amputation or death.
“The infection can rapidly spread at a rate of 1 cm per hour,” says Dr. Russell Russo, an orthopedic surgeon at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. “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.”
Dr. Russo argues that a hands-on physical examination is necessary to recognize the condition early. X-rays, CT scans and other imaging tests may not detect the disease and are time-consuming.