Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is a predominantly adult disorder, with bacterial infection of the soft tissue. In children, it is relatively rare and has a fulminant course with a high mortality rate. In the neonate, most cases of NF are attributable to secondary infection of omphalitis, balanitis, mammitis, postoperative complications, and fetal monitoring. The objective of this communication is to report 3 cases of neonatal NF and provide a literature review of this disorder.
This review yielded 66 cases of neonatal NF. Only 3 cases were premature. There was no sex predilection and the condition rarely recurred. Several underlying conditions were identified that might have contributed to the development of neonatal NF. These included omphalitis in 47, mammitis in 5, balanitis in 4, fetal scalp monitoring in 2, necrotizing enterocolitis, immunodeficiency, bullous impetigo, and maternal mastitis in 1 patient each. The most common site of the initial involvement was the abdominal wall (n = 53), followed by the thorax (n = 7), back (n = 2), scalp (n = 2), and extremity (n = 2). The initial skin presentation ranged from minimal rash to erythema, edema, induration or cellulitis. The lesions subsequently spread rapidly. The overlying skin might later develop a violaceous discoloration, peau d'orange appearance, bullae, or necrosis. Crepitus was uncommon. Fever and tachycardia were frequent but not uniformly present. The leukocyte count of the peripheral blood was usually elevated with a shift to the left. Thrombocytopenia was noted in half of the cases. Hypocalcemia was rarely reported. Of the 53 wound cultures available for bacteriologic evaluation, 39 were polymicrobial, 13 were monomicrobial, and 1 was sterile. Blood culture was positive in only 20 cases (50%). Treatment modalities included the use of antibiotics, supportive care, surgical debridement, and drainage of the affected fascial planes. Two of the 6 cases who received hyperbaric oxygen therapy died. The overall mortality rate was 59% (39/66). In 12 cases, skin grafting was required because of poor granulation formation or large postoperative skin defects among the survivors.
Neonatal NF is an uncommon but often fatal bacterial infection of the skin, subcutaneous fat, superficial fascia, and deep fascia. It is characterized by marked tissue edema, rapid spread of inflammation, and signs of systemic toxicity. The wound cultures are predominantly polymicrobial and the location of initial involvement depends on the underlying etiologic factor. High index of suspicion, prompt aggressive surgery, appropriate antibiotics, and supportive care are the mainstays of management in the newborn infant with NF.