What is facia in human body?

Jim Surrell, MD

The anatomic medical term “fascia” is defined as follows. The word fascia comes from a Latin word that means a band.

Therefore, the medical definition of fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily made up of collagen, that lies beneath the skin, and attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates our muscles and other internal organs.

Because fascia has collagen as its major component, fascia is anatomically similar to our ligaments and our tendons. Recall that ligaments attach one bone to another bone, and tendons attach muscle to bone. The primary function of our fascia is to surround and therefore protect our muscles and various other internal organs.

There are three primary types of fascia in our human body, known as superficial fascia, visceral fascia, and deep fascia. 1. Our superficial fascia makes up the deepest of our skin over all our body. 2. Our visceral fascia holds our numerous organs within their cavities and protects them by wrapping them in layers of connective tissue cell membranes. 3. Our deep fascia is a layer of very strong dense fibrous connective tissue which surrounds individual muscles. This deep fascia also serves to divide our muscles into various anatomic groups known as fascial compartments.

Most of us never have any significant health problems with our fascia. However, there are three issues that can potentially cause clinical health problems. Here are the three potential problems. 1. The fascia may lose its stiffness and become too flexible. 2. If our fascia becomes too stiff, this will affect our ability to move various body parts. 3. Our fascia can also become inflamed or infected, and this may become a very significant health issue.

When the fascia is inflamed, it is known as inflammatory fasciitis. This may occur as a result of trauma, or following surgery where the fascia needed to be opened to gain proper surgical access to the involved body parts. Following trauma or surgery, scar tissue may form on the fascia and this may affect the capability of the fascia to function normally. Fasciitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection that invades the fascia.

If the fascia becomes severely infected, this may cause the fascial tissue to be destroyed by the bacterial infection, and this is known as necrotizing fasciitis. Necrotizing fasciitis is also referred to as a flesh-eating disease, because, if left untreated, it can rapidly kill the body’s fascia and underlying soft tissue. It can be a severe disease of sudden onset that spreads rapidly. Symptoms may include red or purple skin in the affected area, with severe pain, fever, and vomiting. Necrotizing fasciitis is most commonly caused by an infection with group A Streptococcus bacteria, although other bacteria may also cause this serious disease.

If a diagnosis of necrotizing fasciitis is made, or even suspected, antibiotic treatment should be started right away. Early surgical intervention is very necessary and also needs to be done right away. The surgical procedure is called surgical debridement (cutting away affected tissue) and is the mainstay of treatment for necrotizing fasciitis.

Because of the known danger of this disease, a high index of suspicion is needed. Initial treatment often includes a combination of intravenous antibiotics including various types of penicillin, vancomycin, and/or clindamycin. Of course, tissue cultures need to be taken to determine appropriate antibiotic coverage. With early detection and prompt surgical intervention and antibiotic treatment, this serious condition can be very adequately treated.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. He has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at U.P. Health System-Marquette. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.