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Blood tests can help diagnose necrotizing soft tissue infections
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With less than half of patients with necrotizing soft tissue infections displaying the physical signs of these very serious infections, US researchers have found two simple blood tests can help physicians diagnose what is commonly known as "flesh-eating bacteria."

The study results were published Thursday in the December issue of The American Journal of Surgery.

Researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute studied 21 patients with necrotizing soft tissue infections who were admitted to a large local public teaching hospital, from July 2006 to November 2007. They found only 43 percent of the patients had obvious signs of the infection: purplish-colored skin and gas bubbles beneath the skin.

In those patients who didn't display these obvious signs, blood tests that found a high white blood cell count or a low serum sodium level helped physicians determine the patients who had necrotizing soft tissue infections.

"These simple tests are helpful in excluding the possibility of necrotizing soft tissue infection," said lead researcher Christian de Virgilio. "Determining whether someone has the infection is important because acting quickly to treat these infections increases the survival chances for the patient."

Necrotizing soft tissue infections are rare and rapidly progressing processes that can lead to reported mortality rates as high as 73 percent. Previous studies have found the best treatment is prompt surgical intervention, yet the diagnosis remains challenging. This can delay diagnosis and potentially life-saving surgical intervention.

(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2008)

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