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May 1991

Recognition, Management, and Prevention of Clostridium septicum Abscess in Immunosuppressed Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Stanford (Calif) University School of Medicine. Dr Holder is now with the Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC. Dr Kolbeinsson is now with the Permanente Medical Group, Hayward, Calif; Dr Aziz is now with the University of Washington, Seattle.

Arch Surg. 1991;126(5):642-645. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1991.01410290120024

• Spontaneous gas gangrene due to Clostridium septicum is a rapidly progressing disease that usually ends in fatal toxemia. We report three cases of asymptomatic C septicum abscesses to document the clinical course of this entity and to establish guidelines for its prevention and treatment. In contrast to previously reported data, C septicum infections can produce abscesses in solid organs, the retroperitoneum, and the extremities. These lesions often occur in patients with cancer, producing liver abscesses without gas formation that may be misinterpreted as metastatic carcinoma. Symptoms may be minimal or nonspecific before fulminant toxemia. Asymptomatic bacteremia should prompt a search for unsuspected cancer and an abscess. Computed tomography is the diagnostic modality of choice. The treatment consists of surgical débridement of necrotic tissue in concert with an appropriate course of antibiotics. We have found recurrences after adequate débridement and short-term antibiotic therapy, suggesting that prolonged and even lifelong prophylactic oral penicillin G potassium may be necessary to prevent further recurrences.

(Arch Surg. 1991;126:642-645)