More Medical Woes for Zsa Zsa

In July 2010, we reported that actress Zsa Zsa Gabor was hospitalized after a hip fracture. A month later, she was rehospitalized with blood clots in her legs that had to be removed. Since that time she has been back and forth to the hospital, several times in critical condition. Reports began yesterday that Zsa Zsa was readmitted Sunday to Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center to have her leg amputated because of the growing threat of gangrene. Later in the day, her publicist John Blanchette told People magazine that the 93-year-old actress an amputation has been postponed. “Over the next two days, the doctors are treating her with powerful antibiotics in the hope that they will affect the lesion on her lower leg.Her health is still precarious, however, and he added that the lesion is now very deep, and 12 inches long. If the antibiotics don’t work, doctors will have to amputate. She will lose the lower half of her leg below the knee.”

What is Gangrene?

Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body.

Causes

Gangrene happens when a body part loses its blood supply. This may happen from injury, an infection, or other causes. You have a higher risk for gangrene if you have:

  • A serious injury
  • Blood vessel disease (such as arteriosclerosis, also called hardening of the arteries, in your arms or legs)
  • Diabetes
  • Suppressed immune system (for example, from HIV or chemotherapy)
  • Surgery

Symptoms

The symptoms depend on the location and cause of the gangrene. If the skin is involved, or the gangrene is close to the skin, the symptoms may include:

  • Discoloration (blue or black if skin is affected; red or bronze if the affected area is beneath the skin)
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Loss of feeling in the area (which may happen after severe pain in the area)

Treatment

Gangrene requires urgent evaluation and treatment. In general, dead tissue should be removed to allow healing of the surrounding living tissue and prevent further infection. Depending on the area that has the gangrene, the person’s overall condition, and the cause of the gangrene, treatment may include:

  • Amputating the body part that has gangrene
  • An emergency operation to find and remove dead tissue
  • An operation to improve blood supply to the area
  • Antibiotics
  • Repeated operations to remove dead tissue ( called debridement)
  • Treatment in the intensive care unit (for severely ill patients)
Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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