Photo Quiz

Painful Scrotal Swelling


Am Fam Physician. 2019 Oct 1;100(7):435-436.

A 44-year-old man presented with worsening scrotal swelling that began two weeks prior. He also had sharp, constant pain that radiated to both legs (left more than right) and his buttocks. He rated it as 10 out of 10 on a pain scale. The pain worsened with urination and was minimally relieved by over-the-counter ibuprofen. He had never had a similar episode and had no injuries. His sexual history was significant for multiple male partners since 21 years of age. He had untreated HIV infection, which was diagnosed in 2007. He had no other significant medical history.

Physical examination revealed diffuse scrotal edema and tenderness and multiple black blisters on the scrotum and perianal area (Figure 1). The lesions were warm to the touch and erythematous. He had no penile tenderness or discharge. His white blood cell count was 16.82 per μL (0.02 × 109 per L) with an absolute CD4 cell count of 506 per μL (0.50 × 109 per L).




Based on the patient's history and physical examination findings, which one of the following is the most likely diagnosis?

A. Gas gangrene.

B. Kaposi sarcoma.

C. Necrotizing fasciitis.

D. Pyoderma gangrenosum.

E. Pyomyositis.


The answer is C: necrotizing fasciitis, known as Fournier gangrene when affecting the perineum or genital regions. Fournier gangrene is a rare life-threatening necrotizing fasciitis caused by a polybacterial infection of the muscle fascia and overlying subcutaneous fat, which has a relatively poor blood supply. Necrotizing fasciitis usually presents as erythema, severe tenderness, fever, crepitus, and skin bullae or necrosis. However, systemic symptoms such as fever may be absent, as in this patient.1 Necrotizing fasciitis is an emergency requiring surgical debridement. Broad-spectrum antibiotics should be started empirically. Diagnosis is established by surgical exploration and tissue biopsy. The mortality rate is high (20% to 88%) even with treatment, and the condition can progress rapidly if not treated appropriately.2

Gas gangrene is a tissue infection caused by Clostridium perfringens, a gram-positive rod bacterium. Although necrotizing fasciitis and gangrene both may lead to gas formation in the tissues, gas gangrene is more common following traumatic

Address correspondence to Vibhuti Ansar, MD, at Reprints are not available from the authors.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


show all references

1. Stevens DL, Bryant AE. Necrotizing soft-tissue infections. N Engl J Med. 2017;377(23):2253–2265....

2. Kranz J, Schlager D, Anheuser P, et al. Desperate need for better management of Fournier's gangrene. Cent European J Urol. 2018;71(3):360–365.

3. Tikorn DJ, Citak M, Fehmer T, et al. Characteristics and differences in necrotizing fasciitis and gas forming myonecrosis: a series of 36 patients. Scand J Surg. 2012;101(1):51–55.

4. Yenice MG, Varnalı E, Şeker KG, et al. Scrotal Kaposi's sarcoma in HIV-negative patient: a case report and review of the literature. Turk J Urol. 2018;44(2):182–184.

5. Bisarya K, Azzopardi S, Lye G, et al. Necrotizing fasciitis versus pyoderma gangrenosum: securing the correct diagnosis! A case report and literature review. Eplasty. 2011;11:e24.

6. Seok JH, Jee WH, Chun KA, et al. Necrotizing fasciitis versus pyomyositis: discrimination with using MR imaging. Korean J Radiol. 2009;10(2):121–128.

This series is coordinated by John E. Delzell Jr., MD, MSPH, associate medical editor.

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