Bacterial cellulitis. Forms between medical and surgery

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Bacterial cellulitis. Forms between medical and surgery

Postby patoco » Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:15 am

Bacterial cellulitis. Forms borderline between medical and surgical (3 cases)

Pavlovic M,
Le Breton C,
Granier F,
Fouchard N,
Saiag P.
Service de Dermatologie, Hopital Ambroise Pare, Boulogne, France.


An acute infectious cellulitis may be managed medically (erysipelas or non-necrotizing infectious cellulitis) or surgically (necrotizing infectious cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis). We report 3 cases of non-necrotizing infectious cellulitis borderline between medical and surgical forms, complicated by compartment syndrome, the surgical decompression of which permitted patients' cure.


Three patients, 27, 52 and 84 years old, were admitted for an acute infectious cellulitis of the leg. At admission, the leg area involved was erythematous, painful, indurated, with one or several bullae, purpura, pustules, hypoesthesia or limited skin necrosis, and no immediate need for surgical exploration. The clinical evolution was characterized by the slow appearance or extension of signs of severity, despite the modification in antibiotic treatment. Magnetic resonance imaging findings were indicative of a non-necrotizing infectious cellulitis in 2 patients. In one patient, necrotizing fasciitis could not be excluded. In all patients, surgical exploration showed an important quantity of non-purulent fluid between muscles and hypodermis, with no evidence of abscess or necrosis. A large incision rapidly cured all patients.


These three observations were characterized by the initial signs of moderate severity and no response to an appropriate medical treatment, which led to surgical exploration. Surgery showed no abscess or necrosis but an important quantity of sterile fluid; it also permitted rapid cure of patients. These cases present a borderline form of infectious cellulitis, with severe local inflammation caused by a compartment syndrome. Surgical decompression was needed for cure. The potential value of magnetic resonance imaging in this situation should also be stressed.

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