A man had to spend four months in hospital after catching a deadly World War II-era bug while gardening.
A 64-year-old man had to have half of his back muscle removed and his leg cut wide open to kill the bacteria that cause gas gangrene.
If not treated immediately, the infection is often fatal. Rapidly destroys tissue and blood cells.
A gruesome image detailing the Swedish man’s ordeal has been published in a medical journal.
A doctor who reported the case of an unidentified man suspected he had infected himself with worms by cutting himself with contaminated barbed wire.
However, they argued that he may have also been infected by a bug present in the soil that came in contact with one of his psoriasis lesions.
The man required six surgeries to remove dead tissue and a lengthy stay in the intensive care unit of Norrkoping’s Vrinnevi hospital.
Gas gangrene, medically known as Clostridial myonecrosis, was infamous for knocking down soldiers during World War I.
Studies suggest that about 1 in 20 injured people became infected, and 28% of those infected died, even if they received treatment.
Even though modern military medicine has virtually eliminated risks on the battlefield, life-threatening infections still occur sporadically in civilian life.
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About 1,000 cases are recorded each year in the United States, and experts estimate that similar numbers of cases occur in other developed countries such as the United Kingdom.
If left untreated, it is nearly 100% fatal.
It got its name from the gas that builds up in the body produced by bacteria.
The Swedish man initially sought medical attention after experiencing unexplained pain on his left side and fever for eight hours.
According to a man published in International Journal of Surgery Case Reportsmeasurements taken during his initial hospitalization showed that his temperature, heart rate and blood pressure had spiked to worrying levels.
A physical examination revealed that his left side was very soft.
However, doctors were unable to find any signs of trauma, and the man himself claims he was not injured.
A CT scan showed a collection of both fluid and gas around the left iliopsoas muscle, which connects the hips, legs, and hips.
The married man was put on various antibiotics and doctors chose to see how his condition progressed before undertaking serious surgery.
A second CT was ordered two and a half hours later.
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However, these images showed increased levels of both gas and fluid within his left flank and worsening vital signs.
This led doctors to believe that he had developed necrotizing fasciitis, or “man-eating disease”.
Surgeons rushed him in for emergency surgery, in which an incision was made in the side of his abdomen to access his internal musculature and pelvis.
Upon removing the fluid, the doctor reported that “air bubbles could be seen in the swollen and discolored muscle.”
They ended up having to cut off 50% of the man’s psoas muscle. This muscle is necrotic, so he is one of the most important muscles between the spine and pelvis.
A sample was also sent for lab analysis to determine the cause of his infection.
The man was taken to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator.
Doctors performed a second operation 18 hours after the first and found no more tissue to remove.
However, they noticed that his left thigh was worrisomely discolored.
Surgery revealed that the musculature in his legs had also died and had to be removed.
It then showed that the sample had Clostridium septicum, one of two bacterial species that can cause gas gangrene, similar to necrotizing fasciitis.
Doctors then administered metronidazole to the man to fight the bacteria.
However, his left thigh continued to deteriorate and doctors had to commit to another major operation.
They had to remove the dangerous fluid buildup caused by the infection, but found that only the “superficial” parts of the leg muscles were necrotic, so they removed these.
Instead of closing the wound, the doctor stuffed it with gauze soaked in hydrogen peroxide.
They did this because oxygen is actually toxic to the Clostridium septicum bacterium, so keeping the wound open slows the spread of the infection.
At one stage, medical officials even considered transferring the man to another hospital’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy center, but it was decided it was too risky to transfer him.
The man required three more surgeries, and the wound finally closed a week after he first arrived at the hospital.
It took another week before the man was taken off the ventilator, but his ordeal was far from over.
He had a cardiac arrest on hospital day 28.
The man also suffered from an internal leak from the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. Medical practitioners believe this is due to the residual breakdown of internal tissue after gas gangrene infection.
In the end, the man was hospitalized for a total of 135 days.
He was sent to a nursing home because he was unable to return home in this condition and could only walk 20 meters with the help of a wheeled frame before he needed to rest.
Lead author Professor Måns Muhrbeck, an expert in biomedical and clinical sciences at Linköping University, said he believed the man contracted the infection while gardening.
“He may have suffered a small cut on his arm while moving barbed wire, or the soil may have come into contact with a psoriasis lesion,” he wrote.
He added that in cases of gas gangrene, multiple surgeries are often required to remove dead tissue to avoid having to amputate the infected limb.
The report did not disclose when the case occurred, but medical officials obtained consent from the patient before publishing the findings.