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Necrotising Fasciitis
Delayed Diagnosis of Necrotising Fasciitis

Delayed Diagnosis of Necrotising Fasciitis

Necrotising fasciitis is an aggressive infection that rapidly kills the tissue and underlying fascia, earning it the nickname the 'flesh eating disease'. It is therefore vital the condition is diagnosed in the early stages; if there is a delay, the infection will quickly spread and an extensive area of necrotic tissue will have to be removed. This will leave a patient with a significant defect, causing problems both physically and psychologically.

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Diagnosing necrotising fasciitis

Necrotising fasciitis is classically associated with an extreme pain that is disproportionate to the wound. This occurs because the bacteria that cause necrotising fasciitis enter the body through a break in the skin. This may be as small as a needle prick, meaning the person in question may not even be aware their skin has sustained some form of trauma.

When the bacteria get into the body they begin to reproduce at a rapid rate, releasing a harmful toxin as they do so. This poisonous toxin kills the surrounding tissue and underlying fascia, which medical professionals call 'necrosis of the tissue'. This will result in an immense pain for the individual concerned.

As the bacteria continue to multiply, the infection will soon spread and the area of tissue damage will increase. The skin will then be swollen, red and hot to touch, while a patient may also develop a fever and show other signs of infection (such as vomiting).

Anyone who presents to their GP or A&E department with these symptoms should set alarm bells ringing. Even though it is a very rare condition, medical professionals are expected to recognise these health complaints as being indicative of necrotising fasciitis. However, it is an infection that has striking similarities to other illness, with cellulitis being a common misdiagnosis.

Therefore tests must be undertaken as quickly as possible to determine the correct diagnosis. This may involve an emergency ultrasound scan which will show subfascial fluid, thereby indicating the presence of necrotising fasciitis. Or there may be an examination under anaesthetic with incision of the lesion. If offensive pus (sometimes known as 'dishwater pus') is found in the subfascial region, this should be sent to the lab for urgent testing.

Claiming for a delay in necrotising fasciitis diagnosis

If medical professionals fail to act quickly, the consequences will be devastating. The area of infection will rapidly spread and the amount of necrotic tissue will be extensive. When a correct diagnosis is finally made, all of this necrotic tissue will have to be removed, as this is the only form of effective treatment. This will, therefore, leave a patient with a sizeable defect. In such cases, it is not unusual for skin grafts and a referral to a plastic surgeon to occur.

If this has happened to you or a loved one, you need to speak to a solicitor about your treatment. This is because if doctors failed to make a timely diagnosis, despite the fact you were displaying all the telling symptoms of necrotising fasciitis, there could be grounds for a medical negligence claim. This will be especially true if an earlier diagnosis would have reduced the amount of tissue that was removed during surgical debridement.

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