Gas gangrene is a rapidly progressive and severe disease that results from bacterial infection, usually as the result of an injury; it has a high incidence of amputation and a poor prognosis. It requires early diagnosis and comprehensive treatments, which may involve immediate wound debridement, antibiotic treatment, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Chinese herbal medicine, systemic support, and other interventions. The efficacy and safety of many of the available therapies have not been confirmed.
To evaluate the efficacy and safety of potential interventions in the treatment of gas gangrene compared with alternative interventions or no interventions.
In March 2015 we searched: The Cochrane Wounds Group Specialized Register, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library), Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid EMBASE, EBSCO CINAHL, Science Citation Index, the China Biological Medicine Database (CBM-disc), the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), and the Chinese scientific periodical database of VIP INFORMATION (VIP) for relevant trials. We also searched reference lists of all identified trials and relevant reviews and four trials registries for eligible research. There were no restrictions with respect to language, date of publication or study setting.
We selected randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs that compared one treatment for gas gangrene with another treatment, or with no treatment.
Independently, two review authors selected potentially eligible studies by reviewing their titles, abstracts and full-texts. The two review authors extracted data using a pre-designed extraction form and assessed the risk of bias of each included study. Any disagreement in this process was solved by the third reviewer via consensus. We could not perform a meta-analysis due to the small number of studies included in the review and the substantial clinical heterogeneity between them, so we produced a narrative review instead.
We included two RCTs with a total of 90 participants. Both RCTs assessed the effect of interventions on the 'cure rate' of gas gangrene; 'cure rate' was defined differently in each study, and differently to the way we defined it in this review.One trial compared the addition of Chinese herbs to standard treatment (debridement and antibiotic treatment; 26 participants) against standard treatment alone (20 participants). At the end of the trial the estimated risk ratio (RR) of 3.08 (95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.00 to 9.46) favoured Chinese herbs. The other trial compared standard treatment (debridement and antibiotic treatment) plus topical hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT; 21 participants) with standard treatment plus systemic HBOT (23 participants). There was no evidence of difference between the two groups; RR of 1.10 (95% CI 0.25 to 4.84). For both comparisons the GRADE assessment was very low quality evidence due to risk of bias and imprecision so further trials are needed to confirm these results.Neither trial reported on this review's primary outcomes of quality of life, and amputation and death due to gas gangrene, or on adverse events. Trials that addressed other therapies such as immediate debridement, antibiotic treatment, systemic support, and other possible treatments were not available.
Re-analysis of the cure rate based on the definition used in our review did not show beneficial effects of additional use of Chinese herbs or topical HBOT on treating gas gangrene. The absence of robust evidence meant we could not determine which interventions are safe and effective for treating gas gangrene. Further rigorous RCTs with appropriate randomisation, allocation concealment and blinding, which focus on cornerstone treatments and the most important clinical outcomes, are required to provide useful evidence in this area.