A fatal case of Fournier’s gangrene during neoadjuvant radiotherapy for rectal cancer

  • Rainer Johannes KlementEmail author
  • Gabriele Schäfer
  • Reinhart A. Sweeney
Case Study



To report the development of an ultimately fatal occurrence of Fournier’s gangrene in a rectal cancer patient undergoing neoadjuvant radiotherapy without chemotherapy.


A 53-year-old male patient with G2 cT3 cN1a cM0 stage IIIB adenocarcinoma of the lower rectum and several comorbidities including ulcerative colitis was treated with 56 Gy to the primary tumor in 28 fractions because he declined the recommended simultaneous chemotherapy. He was also enrolled in the ketogenic diet arm of our KETOCOMP study, so that prospective measurements of blood parameters, quality of life, and body composition were made.


The patient died 6 days after completion of radiotherapy due to septic shock associated with Fournier’s gangrene reaching from the right buttock into the gluteal muscles and descending into the scrotum. In retrospect, there were several signs probably indicating the development of the gangrene: (i) a decline in bioelectrical phase angle; (ii) an accelerated weight and fat-free mass loss starting in the third week of radiotherapy; (iii) an increase in C-reactive protein (CRP) and concurrent drop in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and insulin-like growth factor(IGF)-1 concentrations; and (iv) the occurrence of a sharp pain in the perianal region reported in the fifth week of radiotherapy. Notably, his self-reported quality of life score was the same at the end of as before radiotherapy.


This case highlights the occurrence of Fournier’s gangrene as an extremely rare but life-threatening complication during neoadjuvant radiotherapy for rectal cancer which should be refreshed in the awareness of radiation oncologists and radiologists.


Bioimpedance analysis Body composition Grade V toxicity KETOCOMP study Ketogenic diet 

Entwicklung eines tödlichen Fournier-Gangräns während neoadjuvanter Bestrahlung eines Rektumkarzinoms



Bericht über die Entwicklung eines zum Tode führenden Fournier-Gangräns während neoadjuvanter Bestrahlung eines Rektumkarzinoms ohne Chemotherapie.


Ein 53-jähriger männlicher Patient mit einem Adenokarzinom des unteren Rektums im Stadium IIIB (G2 cT3 cN1a cM0) sowie mehreren Komorbiditäten, unter anderem einer Colitis ulcerosa, wurde wegen Ablehnung einer simultanen Chemotherapie neoadjuvant mit 56 Gy in 28 Fraktionen bestrahlt. Zudem unterzog er sich gleichzeitig einer ketogenen Ernährungsintervention innerhalb unserer KETOCOMP Studie, so dass prospektive Messungen von Blutparametern, Lebensqualität und Körperzusammensetzung gemacht wurden.


Der Patient verstarb 6 Tage nach der Strahlentherapie an einem septischen Schock im Zusammenhang mit einem ausgedehnten Fournier-Gangrän, welches sich von der rechten Gesäßhälfte, die Glutealmuskulatur infiltrierend, bis ins Skrotum erstreckte. Retrospektiv ergaben sich mehrere Hinweise auf die Entwicklung eines Gangräns: (i) eine Abnahme des bioelektrischen Phasenwinkels; (ii) eine beschleunigte Abnahme des Körpergewichts und fettfreier Masse ab der dritten Therapiewoche; (iii) ein Anstieg der C-reaktives Protein(CRP)-Konzentration bei gleichzeitiger Abnahme des High-density Lipoprotein(HDL)-Cholesterin- und dem Insulin-ähnlichen Wachstumsfaktor(IGF)-1-Spiegels; (iv) das Auftreten stechender perianaler Schmerzen beginnend ab der fünften Therapiewoche. Bemerkenswerterweise gab der Patient subjektiv die gleiche Lebensqualität am Ende wie zu Beginn der Strahlentherapie an.


Auch wenn die Entwicklung eines Fournier-Gangräns eine extrem seltene Nebenwirkung neoadjuvanter Bestrahlung von Rektumkarzinomen darstellt, verdeutlicht dieser Fall die Ernsthaftigkeit derselben, der sich Radioonkologen und Radiologen bewusst sein sollten.


Bioimpedanz-Analyse Körperzusammensetzung Grad V Nebenwirkung KETOCOMP Studie Ketogene Ernährung 


Conflict of interest

R.J. Klement, G. Schäfer, and R.A. Sweeney declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

66_2018_1401_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (136 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1: Fasting blood glucose and β‑hydroxybutyrate concentrations. Measurements were performed weekly in the morning at the same time as BIA and weighing.
66_2018_1401_MOESM2_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary Table 1: Selected biochemical blood parameters taken during the course of radiotherapy.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiation OncologyLeopoldina Hospital SchweinfurtSchweinfurtGermany

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