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Necrotising Fasciitis
Perforated Bowel causing Necrotising Fasciitis

Perforated Bowel causing Necrotising Fasciitis

A perforated or ruptured bowel requires emergency treatment. It can lead to a range of life-threatening conditions of which necrotising fasciitis is possibly the most unpleasant and destructive.

What is necrotising fasciitis?

Necrotising fasciitis is a rare but life-threatening, rapidly-spreading infection that tends to attack the legs, abdominal region or genital area, although it can also affect other areas of the body. It can be caused by a variety of bacteria which release toxins which then attack and destroy the body's soft tissue. It can lead to blood-poisoning, multiple organ failure and death if not diagnosed and treated urgently.

Treatment for necrotising fasciitis is necessarily both invasive and traumatic as the only way to stop the spread of this destructive infection completely is through the surgical removal (debridement) of all the affected tissue. Given that the destruction of tissue can spread rapidly by the hour, the appropriate degree of debridement can be extensive. Indeed, it is occasionally necessary to amputate a limb in order to try to stop the infection spreading.

What causes a perforated bowel?

The bowel wall - which keeps all waste matter within the digestive system - can be perforated (ruptured or split) by a variety of different causes which could include the following:

  • scarring caused by a digestive disorder such as Crohn's Disease or Diverticulitis. Both these conditions can cause scar tissue to build up inside the wall of the bowel, reducing the passage of waste matter through the bowel and creating pressure on the bowel. This can cause the bowel wall to split, creating a hole between the bowel and the abdomen.
  • the bowel can be accidentally damaged by the surgeon in the course of a surgical procedure such as the removal of the gallbladder or a hysterectomy.
  • the growth of a tumour due to bowel cancer can create an obstruction in the bowel which can cause a build-up of waste matter as it cannot pass efficiently through the bowel. This can cause the bowel wall to rupture.

How does a perforated bowel cause necrotising fasciitis?

When the bowel wall is perforated or split, it means that the contents of the bowel can leak through that hole into the abdominal space. Consequently, bacteria can gain access to parts of the body which are normally protected from it.

Bacteria in the abdomen can lead to peritonitis (an infection of the peritoneum which lines the abdomen) and sepsis (an overwhelming and life-threatening response by the immune system to infection) as well as necrotising fasciitis.

Can necrotising fasciitis be avoided?

Once the bowel has perforated, emergency treatment and monitoring of the patient's progress are vital.

If the bowel is accidentally perforated during surgery, it should be identified and repaired at the time in order to minimise any subsequent problems.

If the bowel is perforated by internal processes, it needs to be diagnosed as quickly as possible. Antibiotics should be administered to the patient promptly in order to reduce the chances of infection and surgery should take place to repair any damage as soon as possible.

If infection takes hold, it needs to be diagnosed and treated as swiftly as possible in order to increase the patient's chances of survival.

Signs that the patient is developing an infection would include flu-like symptoms such a high temperature, a fast heartbeat and rapid breathing. The patient may feel nauseous.

Medical Negligence

Necrotising fasciitis can be difficult to diagnose definitively without surgical investigation but a patient who is exposed to bacterial infection and exhibiting typical symptoms requires close attention and emergency treatment if necrotising fasciitis is suspected.

If you or a loved one have suffered the shocking effects of necrotising fasciitis which you believe could have been diagnosed and treated earlier, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

Here at Glynns Solicitors, we regularly work with clients who have suffered this appalling illness and have achieved significant compensation for those clients. Contact us to discuss your case with an experienced medical negligence solicitor.

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