When should surgical consultation and exam be considered for cases of cellulitis?

Updated: Jun 14, 2019
  • Author: Thomas E Herchline, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Urgent consultation with a surgeon should be sought in the setting of crepitus, circumferential cellulitis, necrotic-appearing skin (bronzing), evolving bullae, rapidly evolving cellulitis, pain disproportional to physical examination findings, severe pain on passive movement, or other clinical concern for necrotizing fasciitis. Wong et al have developed a scoring tool to assist in the diagnosis of necrotizing fasciitis. [78] Cellulitis associated with an abscess requires surgical drainage of the source of infection for adequate treatment.

Serious concern for necrotizing fasciitis and/or the presence of necrotic skin should prompt examination of the fascial planes by immediate computed tomographic imaging or surgical direct observation, which, in most cases, can be performed at the bedside by an experienced surgeon. Circumferential cellulitis may result in compartment syndrome, which may require surgical decompression. Measurement of compartment pressures may be helpful in diagnosis.

See also the Medscape Reference article Skin and Soft Tissue Infections - Incision, Drainage, and Debridement.

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