Tissue that has been damaged by gangrene can't be saved, but steps can be taken to prevent gangrene from progressing. Depending on the severity of your gangrene, your doctor could choose one or more of these treatment options.
Your doctor may perform a surgical procedure to remove dead tissue, which helps stop gangrene from spreading and allows healthy tissue to heal. If possible, your doctor may repair damaged or diseased blood vessels in order to increase blood flow to the affected area. Occasionally, more than one surgery may be required to remove all dead or infected tissue.
If reconstructive surgery is needed, your doctor might use a skin graft to repair damage to your skin caused by gangrene. During a skin graft, your doctor removes healthy skin from another part of your body — usually a place hidden by your clothing — and carefully spreads it over an affected area. The healthy skin may be held in place by a dressing or by a couple of small stitches. A skin graft can be done only if an adequate blood supply has been restored to the damaged skin.
In severe cases of gangrene, an affected body part, such as a toe, finger or limb, may need to be surgically removed (amputated). In some cases, you may later be fitted with an artificial limb (prosthesis).
Antibiotics that are given through a vein (intravenous), or those that are taken orally, may be used to treat gangrene that has become infected.
If you have to have surgery to remove dead tissue, your doctor will probably prescribe certain antibiotics until no further surgery is needed and your infection is cleared. Your doctor might also prescribe antibiotics to be taken while you complete hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
In addition to antibiotics and surgery, hyperbaric oxygen therapy also may be used to treat gangrene. Under increased pressure and increased oxygen content, your blood is able to carry greater amounts of oxygen. Blood rich in oxygen slows the growth of bacteria that thrive in the absence of oxygen and helps infected wounds heal more easily.
In this type of therapy, you'll be situated in a special chamber, which usually consists of a padded table that slides into a clear plastic tube. The chamber is pressurized with pure oxygen, and the pressure inside the chamber will slowly rise to about 2.5 times normal atmospheric pressure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for gas gangrene generally lasts about 90 minutes. You may need two to three treatments daily.
Other treatments for gangrene may include supportive care, including fluids, nutrients and pain medication to relieve your discomfort.
Generally, people who have dry gangrene have the best chance of a full recovery because dry gangrene doesn't involve a bacterial infection and spreads more slowly than do the other types of gangrene. However, when gangrene caused by an infection is recognized and treated quickly, the odds of recovery are good.