Treatment of Severe Skin and Soft Tissue Infections

A Review

Jason P. Burnham; Marin H. Kollef


Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2018;31(2):113-119. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of review: To review the salient features of the management of severe skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs), including toxic shock syndrome, myonecrosis/gas gangrene, and necrotizing fasciitis.

Recent findings: For severe SSTIs, intensive care, source control, and broad-spectrum antimicrobials are required for the initial phase of illness. There is an increasing focus on the utility of rapid diagnostic tests to help in selection and de-escalation of antimicrobials for SSTIs. In addition, clinical prediction scores have shown promise in helping predict patients who do not require antimicrobials directed against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Immune status has been shown to be important in clinical outcomes of some, but not all types of SSTIs. The debate for benefits of intravenous immunoglobulin continues to be waged in the recent literature.

Summary: Severe SSTIs are common and their management complex due to regional variation in predominant pathogens and antimicrobial resistance patterns, as well variations in host immune responses. Unique aspects of care for severe SSTIs are discussed including the role of surgical consultation and source control. The unique features of SSTIs in immunocompromised hosts are also described.


Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are a common reason for patients seeking inpatient and outpatient medical care with more than 14 million outpatient visits a year,[1] and almost 900 000 inpatient admissions in the United States.[2] Pathogen isolation in SSTIs is limited by currently available diagnostics and is influenced by host and geographic factors, making empiric antimicrobial therapy selection complicated.[3–5] Despite difficulties in empiric therapy selection, it is well recognized that patients with severe SSTIs require source control via surgical debridement. In this review, we summarize the salient features of the treatment of severe SSTIs.