New Danger Associated with Bath Salts

New Danger Associated with Bath Salts

As bath salts are gaining popularity as a street drug, healthcare workers are rushing to accommodate the dangers associated with use. Though bath salts are technically legal, they are highly toxic and their use can result in a rush to the emergency room.

Recently, a new risk was discovered to be associated with the use of bath salts. Russell R. Russo, MD, discovered that necrotizing fasciitis, a life-threatening condition, can be caused by the injection of bath salts into the muscle. Dr. Russo is an Orthopedic Surgeon in his third year of residency at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine.

The study’s findings appear in the January issue of the journal Orthopedics and can also be viewed online. The research documents the first discovered case of necrotizing fasciitis resulting from an injection of bath salts.

Necrotizing fasciitis is an orthopedic disease requiring immediate diagnosis and treatment to prevent a patient from the loss of a limb or even death. Complicating diagnosis, however, is the common mistake of identifying the disease as a much less critical ailment, such as an abscess or cellulitis. Meanwhile, the disease causes significant damage beneath the skin.

Dr. Russo notes in the study the importance of medical centers understanding the various problems resulting from bath salts as they increase in popularity as a street drug. Not only do doctors need to be aware of the risks involved with these drugs but how to recognize the addiction risk they pose.

In the case documented by Dr. Russo a 34-year-old woman was treated for pain in her arm after attending a party. Additional symptoms were not reported by the patient, but the healthcare staff noted that there was a small puncture on her arm. Treated with antibiotics, the patient experienced an improvement in symptoms. When the pain continued, however, an ultrasound was ordered and the case of necrotizing fasciitis was discovered after the patient admitted to the use of bath salts.

The patient was immediately taken to surgery, where surgeons struggled to contain the infection, watching her healthy tissue die as they operated. Challenged to develop a healthy margin of tissue, the surgeons eventually removed the arm, collarbone and shoulder of the patient, in addition to a radical mastectomy.

Fortunately the patient survived and her treatment included skin grafting as well as rehabilitation.

The disease observed in this patient is one usually resulting from farm injury or a crush trauma, but the doctors involved with this case warn that healthcare providers should be prepared to investigate further when examining a celluitis patient who reports needle use.

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