Woman Loses Arm, Shoulder and Breast to Bath Salts Injection

A bath salts injection caused a massive infection that cost a woman her right arm, shoulder and breast in a matter of hours. According to physicians and surgeons who performed a dramatic procedure in order to save her, the woman had injected bath salts into the muscle of her right forearm, which caused a nearly fatal case of necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating bacteria.

While the woman survived the incident, she lost a significant portion of her upper body and her case has shed attention on yet another reason that bath salts are so dangerous.

Evening, Day 1: A 34 year old woman goes to a party. At some point she obtains bath salts and attempts to inject the drugs into her veins. After intravenous administration fails she injects the drugs directly into the muscles of her right upper forearm.

12 Hours after Injection: pain and swelling sets in near the injection site and continues over the next day.

48 Hours after Injection: pain and swelling has become significantly worse and the woman is admitted to the urgent care center at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

Initially the woman is diagnosed with cellulitis and a course of antibiotics is ordered.

60 Hours after Injection: The woman seems to be feeling better and indicates the pain has lessened. In addition, the signs of infection have receded despite significant swelling.

84 Hours after Injection: The antibiotics seem to be working, but disproportionate pain – a hallmark of an aggressive infection – is present. Doctors begin to investigate, but before they get far the situation rapidly changes: the woman’s arm blackens, swells, and areas of rotten-smelling flesh begin falling off.

Doctors diagnose the woman with necrotizing fasciitis; commonly referred to in sensationalist media reports as “flesh eating bacteria.”

88 Hours after Injection: The woman undergoes emergency surgery. The surgery team discovers a significant amount of underlying dead tissue and begins to remove it in a process called debridement.

At one point the infection spreads so quickly the surgery team reports that they could see tissue dying before their eyes. Because of the severity and aggressive nature of the infection, a large percentage of the tissue from the woman’s arm, shoulder and chest area were removed, but the infection was already too deeply embedded in the tissue and muscle.

Finally, surgeons were forced to amputate the woman’s entire right arm, her shoulder including her clavicle and scapula, her entire right breast and sections of her chest. Surprisingly, the woman lived and is reportedly in good condition.

If the media hype surrounding the dangers of bath salts isn’t enough to keep virtually anyone away from these drugs, the risk of contracting a horrifying and likely fatal case of necrotizing fasciitis should be. However, this risk doesn’t just apply to bath salts; it applies to any drug that is injected. In any case, the concept behind this should be enough:

Think your life is so bad right now that you’d rather have limbs amputated or die a terrifying death? Is being high for a few hours worth being crippled for the rest of your life?

It’s not worth it; so if you or someone you love has a bath salts problem or is battling addiction to any other drug, the time to act is now. Otherwise, it could all be over in as little as 88 horrible hours.

The surgery and support team for this case and the source for this article is as follows:

Russell Russo, MD; Noah Marks, MD; Katy Morris, MD; Heather King, MD; Angelle Gelvin, MD; Ronald Rooney, MD Life Threatening Necrotizing Fasciitis Due to ‘Bath Salts’ Injection Department of Orthopedics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana. January 2012 – Volume 35 • Issue 1: e124-e127 DOI: 10.3928/01477447-20111122-36

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