Background: Necrotizing fasciitis is a true surgical emergency. This study was undertaken to determine whether clinical indicators could be used to initiate early surgery, and to compare the characteristics observed on initial examination of necrotizing fasciitis in patients who died and those who survived. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 143 patients with surgically confirmed necrotizing fasciitis of the extremities over a period of 3.5 years at a tertiary hospital of southwest Taiwan. Differences in mortality, patient characteristics, laboratory findings, and hospital course were compared between patients who died and those who survived, and between patients with Gram-positive infections and those with Gram-negative infections. Results: A patient with a fungal infection died. Nine of the 58 patients in the Gram-positive group (15.5%) and 12 of the 60 cases in the Gram-negative group (20%) died. Hence a total of 22 patients died, giving a mortality rate of 15.4%. Hypotension, lower counts of total and segmented leukocytes, higher counts of banded leukocytes, and lower levels of serum albumin were significantly associated with mortality. Monomicrobial infections had a stake of 70.6%, and Vibrio spp were the predominant causative agents (26.6%). Conclusions: Hypotensive shock, severe hypoalbuminemia, and increased counts of banded leukocytes can be considered the clinical and laboratory risk indicators to initiate early surgery and to predict mortality for all types of necrotizing fasciitis. The clinical characteristics of Gram-negative infections were more fulminant than those of Gram-positive infections.
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