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Failure To Diagnose Necrotising Fasciitis

Failure To Diagnose Necrotising Fasciitis

Necrotising Fasciitis is an aggressive flesh eating disease that needs to be treated as soon as possible if a patient is to make a full recovery. This depends entirely on medical staff having a sound knowledge of the early symptoms. Otherwise a patient could be wrongly diagnosed with a more minor affliction, resulting in devastating consequences.

What Is Necrotising Fasciitis?

Necrotising Fasciitis, known as the 'flesh eating disease', is a bacterial infection that kills the skin and underlying tissue. The bacteria enter the body via a penetration to skin. This may be from an obvious bodily trauma from something such as a car crash, or a minor injury such as a scratch that the patient is not even aware of.

Once the bacteria are inside the body, they rapidly reproduce, releasing poisonous toxins into the body. This attacks the tissue and fascia, eventually causing it to become necrotic.

How To Diagnose Necrotising Fasciitis

It is vital to diagnose Necrotising Fasciitis as quickly as possible, or a patient's condition will quickly deteriorate. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages. This is because a patient will first present with an overwhelming pain at the site of infection which seems disproportionate to the injury sustained. There are, however, a collection of symptoms which together act as early indicators of Necrotising Fasciitis.

The early symptoms (present within around 24 hours) include:

  • Some form of trauma to the skin;
  • Extreme pain and discomfort in the general region of trauma which seems inconsistent with the injury;
  • Flu like symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea, fever, confusion, dizziness, weakness and general malaise;
  • Dehydration.

It is extremely important that medical staff are aware of these symptoms, which when seen simultaneously suggest the presence of Necrotising Fasciitis. A patient is therefore entirely dependent on their medical team's knowledge of the disease, as this is the only way to avoid a misdiagnosis in the early stages.

If medical staff recognise these symptoms as Necrotising Fasciitis, they can begin to treat a patient immediately with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Further tests can then be done, and if Necrotising Fasciitis is confirmed, a patient will need to have the necrotic tissue removed (called surgical debridement).

What Happens If Necrotising Fasciitis Is Not Diagnosed?

If Necrotising Fasciitis is not diagnosed when a patient first presents, the bacteria will continue to spread at an alarming rate. This will cause a patient to quickly advance into the later stages of the disease, where they will experience the following symptoms:

  • The site of infection will begin to swell and form a purplish rash until it becomes necrotic with a bluish, white or dark mottled, flaky appearance;
  • A severe drop in blood pressure;
  • Septic shock;
  • Unconsciousness.

When a patient reaches these advanced stages, it becomes more and more unlikely they will make a full recovery. In most cases, the disease will have spread to such an extent that a significant amount of tissue has become necrotic. This will necessitate an extreme level of surgical debridement, leaving a patient with a degree of deformity or even facing the amputation of a limb.

What Action Can You Take?

If you have had Necrotising Fasciitis and have suffered as a result of a delay in diagnosis, you need to seek immediate legal advice. A medical negligence solicitor will be able to discuss your case with you, helping you decide if you want to make a claim regarding the negligent treatment you received. If successful, you could receive compensation for your pain and suffering.

Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01761 490883) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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