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Necrotising Fasciitis
Early Symptoms of Necrotising Fasciitis

Early Symptoms of Necrotising Fasciitis

Necrotising fasciitis is a rare but life-threatening infection. In the worst case scenario, the patient can die within 48 hours. Recognition of the early signs is vital.

The threat of necrotising fasciitis

Necrotising fasciitis is a deep-tissue infection that enters the body via an opening in the skin such as a cut or wound. Once the bacteria have entered the body, they can spread through the connecting tissue layers, releasing toxins and destroying the affected tissue.

Emergency treatment of necrotising fasciitis

A diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis is a shocking result of a medical examination. The patient will need immediate hospitalisation with high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics intravenously administered. Emergency and on-going debridement (surgical removal) of all tissue affected by the infection is also usually necessary to try to prevent the spread of the infection to other parts of the body. In a recent study, 10% of patients required amputation of a limb before the infection could be halted.

Furthermore, the patient will need on-going life-support in an intensive care setting if septicaemia and multiple organ failure set in.

Therefore, the earlier the condition can be identified, the less devastating the treatment may need to be.

Early Symptoms

In its early stages, necrotising fasciitis is sometimes confused with other conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or cellulitis but its key symptoms in the first 24 48 hours are clear.

  • Intense, localised pain disproportionate to any apparent cause
  • Swelling and redness of the skin in the affected area
  • Tenderness of the skin beyond the apparent area of infection
  • Flu-like symptoms such as a high temperature, fatigue, rapid heartbeat

The flu-like symptoms should alert the medical practitioners to the presence of an infection. Where the other symptoms are also present, further investigation should be carried out to clarify the diagnosis, especially where the patient is known to have experienced a cut or incision to the skin.

Treatment at this stage gives the patient the greatest chances of survival and recovery.

Deterioration

Without treatment, deterioration of the condition can occur rapidly. Even with treatment, there is no guarantee that the patient will survive.

As the condition worsens, the patient will begin to experience additional symptoms. The skin may become discoloured, eventually appearing as a greyish colour as the tissue dies. Painful areas can become numb as the nerves die. The area of swelling may extend and blisters may develop.

Eventually the patient may develop blood-poisoning and multiple organ failure as the body's organs are starved of oxygen and cease to function.

Medical Negligence

Necrotising fasciitis is both rare and, in some ways, similar in presentation to other conditions, making diagnosis difficult. It is important, therefore, that medical practitioners refer a patient for investigation when there is any doubt as to the accuracy of a diagnosis where the above-mentioned symptoms are present. When this does not occur, and a diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis is subsequently, and belatedly, made, the medical practitioner may be guilty of medical negligence.

Speak to a solicitor

Contact Glynns Solicitors if you or a loved one have suffered from a delayed diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis. We are a specialist team of medical negligence solicitors, with considerable experience of this appalling condition.

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

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