Doctors' warning after woman who injected bath salts loses arm, shoulder and breast to flesh-eating infection
'Healthy tissue was literally dying before the surgeons' eyes'
ivory wave bath salts
Doctors in the U.S are warning about the dangers of bath salts, after a 34-year-old woman caught a flesh-eating infection from injecting some into her arm at a party.
The substance, which has been banned in the UK but is still legal in the U.S, caused the life-threatening condition necrotizing fasciitis to spread through her upper body within days.
The woman was examined by a team led by Dr Russell Russo at Lousiana State University, after complaining of a painful and red forearm.
At first they thought she had a common skin infection and she was treated with antibiotics, which reduced her symptoms. However, she still had lingering pain at the site of a small red puncture wound.
She then admitted she had injected 'bath salts' two days before and when she was reexamined doctors realised she had developed a flesh-eating infection.
She underwent emergency surgery as doctors battled to stop it spreading across her whole body.
'The infection moved so fast that pink, healthy tissue was literally dying before the surgeons' eyes,' a university spokesman said.
'They had to keep removing tissue until
they reached clear margins of healthy tissue to stop the progression of
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Third-year Orthopaedic Surgery resident Dr Russell Russo has warned that injecting bath salts could lead to a life-threatening infection
The patient survived and subsequently underwent skin grafting and
The doctors, writing in the latest edition of Orthopedics, are now warning other surgeons that they may see a rise in such cases.
'As 'bath salts' gain popularity,
medical centers of all disciplines must be prepared to identify not only
the signs of intoxication, but the potential side effects including
deadly necrotizing fasciitis,' Dr Russo said.
'Surgeons must be ready to diagnose and
perform extensive debridements in association with general surgeons in
some instances to save limbs, preserve function, and prevent death.'
Bath salts' – man-made stimulant drugs that resemble scented bath powders, were banned in Britain in 2010. However, they are still legal for use in water in the U.S.
The drugs, which go under names including Aura, Ivory Wave and Vanilla
Sky – have dangerous side effects and users have needed several people
to retrain them after arriving in emergency rooms.
'Despite the drug's legal status, it must be treated as illicit, and one must be suspicious when examining a patient with this clinical history because the diagnosis of flesh-eating bacteria can masquerade as abscesses and cellulitis,' Dr Russo said.