Significance: Necrotizing soft-tissue infections (NSTIs) are life-threatening infections with a cumulative case fatality rate of 21%. The initial presentation of an NSTI is non-specific, frequently leading to misdiagnosis and delays in care. No current strategies yield an accurate, real-time diagnosis of an NSTI.

Aim: A first-in-kind, observational, clinical pilot study tested the hypothesis that measurable fluorescence signal voids occur in NSTI-affected tissues following intravenous administration and imaging of perfusion-based indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence. This hypothesis is based on the established knowledge that NSTI is associated with local microvascular thrombosis.

All NSTI cases exhibited prominent fluorescence signal voids in affected tissues, including tissue features not visible to the naked eye. All cellulitis cases exhibited a hyperemic response with increased fluorescence and no distinct signal voids. Median lesion-to-background tissue SBRs based on snapshot, IS, TTP, and IMAX parameter maps ranged from 3.2 to 9.1, 2.2 to 33.8, 1.0 to 7.5, and 1.5 to 12.7, respectively, for the NSTI patient group. All fluorescence parameters except TTP demonstrated statistically significant differences between NSTI and cellulitis patient groups.

Conclusions: Real-time, accurate discrimination of NSTIs compared with non-necrotizing infections may be possible with perfusion-based ICG fluorescence imaging.

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