A New Orleans woman’s experiment with the illicit drugs dubbed “bath salts” cost her her arm — and nearly her life — after she was ravaged by flesh-eating bacteria that invaded an injection site. The 34-year-old woman showed up at a Louisiana hospital complaining of pain and redness on her right forearm, where there was a puncture wound the woman admitted was a needle stick. She said the symptoms started two days after she injected bath salts at party, according to a case report published online in the journal Orthopedics. Doctors gave her strong antibiotics for a skin infection and she seemed to get better. Two days later, however, the patient was still in pain.
On closer examination, doctors discovered growing redness, sloughing skin and a smelly drainage, the report said. Suspecting a growing infection, doctors immediately sent the woman into surgery. They quickly discovered dead muscle surrounding the injection site in her forearm, and an infection moving so fast doctors could see it killing healthy tissue in its path, the report said. Fearing for the woman’s life, doctors removed her right arm and shoulder and stripped away the dead muscle. They also performed a radical mastectomy and cut away more unhealthy skin.
The final diagnosis was necrotizing fasciitis caused by streptococcus bacteria. Such flesh-eating infections can kill quickly, with victims requiring surgery within an average of 25 hours of admission in order to survive, according to one study.