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Medical Negligence
Infection After Arthroscopy

Infection After Arthroscopy

If you had an unnecessary arthroscopy, after which you developed an infection inside the knee, there could be a case of medical negligence. There may also be grounds for a claim if your infected knee was not diagnosed and treated in a reasonable amount of time, causing you serious damage.

To find out if you can claim compensation for an infection after a knee arthroscopy, please get in touch with us at Glynns Solicitors.

Knee arthroscopy

An arthroscopy is when a thin, metal tube called an arthroscope is inserted into the body through a tiny cut. The arthroscope has a camera and a light attached to the end, and will relay images back to a TV screen or eye-piece.

An arthroscopy therefore allows doctors to look inside the body, without having to make any large cuts to the skin. It is for this reason that an arthroscopy is described as a type of 'keyhole' surgery.

Arthroscopies are normally used on patients with joint problems. A knee arthroscopy is one of the most common forms of arthroscopy, although it can be used to treat hip, wrist, shoulder and elbows problems too.

Knee arthroscopy for treatment

An arthroscopy can be used to treat a range of knee complaints. Examples include:

  • Repairing damaged tendons, ligaments and cartilage
  • Treating arthritis
  • Drain a Baker's cyst
  • Drain away excess fluid
  • Remove loose bits of bone and cartilage
  • Remove excessive scar tissue

An arthroscopy has become a very popular tool for medical practitioners, as it has far fewer risks than open surgery. It also has a faster healing time, with the patient being allowed home the same day.

Arthroscopy for diagnosis

Former arthroscopies were not just used to treat knee complaints, they were also used to aid a diagnosis.

Indeed, sometimes a patient will report ongoing pain and other symptoms, but nothing can be seen on scans and x-rays. In such cases, medical practitioners may opt to perform an arthroscopy as a form of exploratory surgery. By looking inside the joint, a doctor would be able to determine a problem that could not otherwise be seen.

However, there is now much controversy over the benefits of exploratory arthroscopies. Some medical experts believe there is no need for a diagnostic arthroscopy, while some say they are positively dangerous due to the risk of infection and should not be carried out unless truly necessary.

Infection after arthroscopy septic arthritis

As with all surgical procedures, an arthroscopy carries the risk of infection. This is because the skin acts as a natural barrier, preventing bacteria from getting inside the body. When the skin is cut open, bacteria will be able to get through the incisions and, in the case of a knee arthroscopy, travel to the knee joint.

When an infection develops in a joint, such as the knee joint, a patient is said to have septic arthritis. Septic arthritis after an arthroscopy will become apparent shortly after the procedure. The patient will complain of an abnormally painful knee. It will also be red, hot to touch and swollen. The patient may complain of feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms.

Septic arthritis needs to be diagnosed and treated without delay. While inside the joint, the bacteria will damage the bone and tissues. If left for long enough, the bacteria can do serious, long-term harm.

Furthermore, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream, making the patient critically unwell with septicaemia otherwise known as blood-poisoning. The body will undergo a septic inflammatory response, which can lead to the organs shutting down.

Diagnosing and treating septic arthritis

Septic arthritis develops very quickly. As mentioned above, the symptoms of infection should arise within days, if not hours, of the knee arthroscopy. A patient will experience symptoms such as fever, pain in the knee, and a knee that is swollen, red and hot to touch.

Medical practitioners should immediately be wary of a patient who displays these symptoms shortly after an arthroscopy. The procedure is known to carry the risk of infection, and the symptoms described above are the characteristic signs of an infection inside the knee.

Action should be taken without delay to confirm a diagnosis. A blood test will reveal a high number of white blood cells and C-Reactive Protein. A sample of fluid can also be taken from the knee and inspected under a microscope to check for bacteria.

Once diagnosed, the patient should be treated with intravenous antibiotics. If diagnosed and treated quickly enough, the patient should make a full recovery on antibiotics alone.

Delayed diagnosis of infection after arthroscopy

But if there is a delay in diagnosing and treating a knee infection, the joint can become severely damaged. At worst, the destruction will be such that further surgery is needed. The patient may even require a new knee.

Additionally, there is a risk that the bacteria will spread to the bloodstream, leading to the potentially fatal condition of sepsis.

Knee infection after arthroscopy can I claim?

If you have suffered severe knee damage or sepsis because of an infection after an arthroscopy, you will want to know whether medical professionals acted negligently. There are certain situations in which the care would be deemed unacceptable, amounting to a breach of duty. This might include:

  • 1. Wrongful arthroscopy there is an argument that an arthroscopy should not be performed unless truly necessary. An arthroscopy that is carried out for investigative or exploratory purposes may amount to a breach of duty. If you went on to develop an infection, there could be grounds for a claim.
  • 2. Delayed diagnosis of septic arthritis if you developed an infection in the knee after an arthroscopy but the problem was not identified quickly enough, there could be grounds for a claim.
  • 3. Delayed treatment of septic arthritis if you developed an infection in the knee after an arthroscopy but treatment was delayed, there could be grounds for a claim.

Get in touch

If you developed an infection in your knee after an arthroscopy, please get in touch with us to find out if you are eligible to claim compensation.

Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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