To evaluate the impact of clinical suspicion on the diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis (NF) in two inpatient plastic surgery units.
A multicentre retrospective audit of all referrals of adult patients to the inpatient plastic surgery units of two Melbourne metropolitan tertiary centres from 1 February 2018 to 31 December 2018.
A total of 53 patients (37 male, 16 female) were referred to evaluate for NF. There were 20 patients (37.04%) who underwent operative debridement. Of those, 15 were pre-operatively suspected of having NF and there were seven confirmed cases of NF (13.21%). Laboratory risk indicator for NF (LRINEC) score ≥ 6 had a statistically significant association with a diagnosis of NF (P = 0.03) and with operative debridement (P = 0.04). The incidence of NF in the cohort where the referrer had clinical concern for NF was 13.21% (P < 0.001) and when the referrer and the plastic surgeon suspected NF was 46.67% (P < 0.001). The number of patients needed to be referred for one case of NF to be diagnosed was 7.58.
Clinical suspicion of NF is essential for diagnosis and clinicians who suspect NF should not hesitate to refer to the appropriate surgical unit. Prompt review is required of patients in whom NF is clinically suspected as these patients have a 13.21% incidence of NF. The laboratory risk indicator for NF score is not sufficiently specific nor sensitive to exclude or to diagnose NF as a stand-alone diagnostic tool but may have a role as an adjunct.

© 2021 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.