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Comparison of Necrotizing Fasciitis and Sepsis Caused by Vibrio vulnificus and Staphylococcus aureus
Yao-Hung Tsai, MD1; Robert Wen-Wei Hsu, MD1; Kuo-Chin Huang, MD1; Tsung-Jen Huang, MD1
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at Chia-Yi, 6, West Sec, Chia-Pu Road, Putz City, Chia-Yi, 613, Taiwan, Republic of China. E-mail address for Y.-H. Tsai: orma2244@adm.cgmh.org.tw
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Disclosure: The authors did not receive any outside funding or grants in support of their research for or preparation of this work. Neither they nor a member of their immediate families received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity.

Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at Chia-Yi, Chang Gung University College of Medicine at Taoyuan, Taiwan, Republic of China

Copyright © 2011 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2011 Feb 02;93(3):274-284. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.I.01679
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Vibrio vulnificus can cause a rapidly progressive fatal soft-tissue infection. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of skin and soft-tissue infections reported worldwide, and, in particular, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus has emerged as the most common isolate in emergency departments. The purposes of the present study were to compare the specific characteristics of Vibrio vulnificus and Staphylococcus aureus infections and to compare the clinical outcomes of Vibrio vulnificus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus necrotizing infections.


One hundred and fifteen patients with necrotizing fasciitis caused by Vibrio vulnificus (sixty patients) or Staphylococcus aureus (fifty-five patients) were retrospectively reviewed over a six-year period. Differences in mortality, patient characteristics, clinical presentations, laboratory data, and hospital course were compared between the Vibrio vulnificus and Staphylococcus aureus groups.


Nineteen patients (including eleven in the Vibrio vulnificus group and eight in the Staphylococcus aureus group) died, resulting in a mortality rate of 16.5%. We found significant differences between the two groups with regard to hypotension, fever, the interval between contact and admission, the interval between the diagnosis of necrotizing fasciitis and the first operation, and admission to the intensive care unit. The patients in the Vibrio vulnificus group had significantly lower total white blood-cell counts, higher banded white blood-cell counts, and lower platelet counts as compared with those in the Staphylococcus aureus group. The proportion of patients who were hypotensive (as indicated by a systolic blood pressure of =90 mm Hg) was significantly greater in the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus subgroup than in the methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus subgroup. Patients with hepatic dysfunction were significantly more likely to have Vibrio vulnificus infection, and those with diabetes mellitus were significantly more likely to have Staphylococcus aureus infection.


Necrotizing fasciitis caused by Vibrio vulnificus and Staphylococcus aureus is a surgical emergency. Vibrio vulnificus infection progresses more rapidly and the clinical characteristics are more fulminant than either methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus infection.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level II. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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