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Necrotising Fasciitis
Superbugs: How do MRSA and Necrotising Fasciitis Compare?

Superbugs: How do MRSA and Necrotising Fasciitis Compare?

When you go into hospital, you hope to be treated for your pre-existing condition. You do not expect to acquire additional complications and illnesses. However, over recent years, hospital superbugs have become a regular feature in the press and an increasing problem for the NHS to combat.

MRSA and Necrotising Fasciitis are two of the most dangerous infections that it is possible to pick up in hospital and it is important that both are identified and treated without delay.

What Is MRSA?

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a common type of bacteria and is usually harmless for most healthy people. It's often carried on the skin and inside the nostrils and throat, and can cause mild infections of the skin, such as boils.

However, if the bacteria get into a break in the skin (an invasive infection), they can cause life-threatening infections, such as blood poisoning, pneumonia, urinary tract problems or endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart). Occasionally, MRSA can cause Necrotising Fasciitis. Ultimately, it can kill.

How is MRSA spread?

MRSA is spread through contact with someone who has the bacteria on their skin. However, this can also include contact via shared surfaces or objects such as door handles and towels. It can spread more easily in hospitals where there are large numbers of people, who may already be vulnerable to infection due to their illness or wound or recent surgery, and who may already have a compromised immune system.

What are the symptoms of MRSA?

Signs that your skin has been affected by MRSA are likely to include:

  • redness
  • pain
  • swelling of the affected area
  • the presence of pus in the area

Signs that MRSA has invaded your body will vary depending on where the infection has affected the body. However, they could be:

  • a high temperature
  • dizziness
  • pain, swelling in the affected area
  • muscle pain
  • chills

What Treatment is Necessary for MRSA?

The sooner an invasive infection caused by MRSA is identified and treated, the greater the chance of a positive outcome. Unfortunately, MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics, which means that it can be difficult to treat. However, there are still some antibiotics that can be used.

Once you have been diagnosed with MRSA, treatment is likely to include the following:

  • possible isolation from other patients
  • a course of antibiotics or a combination of antibiotics

What Is Necrotising Fasciitis?

Necrotising Fasciitis is a rare but extremely serious bacterial infection that reproduces and spreads quickly once it has entered the body, causing the death of the soft tissue which it affects. Eventually, the bacteria will cause the body's organs to go into systemic shock. This can result in respiratory failure, heart failure, low blood pressure and renal failure. Every system of the body can fail. The patient can die.

Necrotising Fasciitis can be caused by a number of different bacteria, occasionally including MRSA. These bacteria can live naturally in the gut, throat or skin without causing any problems. However, they can reach the deep tissue of the body via a wound as small as an inset bite or small scratch and develop quickly into Necrotising Fasciitis.

How is Necrotising Fasciitis Spread?

  • The patient may already have the bacteria on their skin
  • The patient is likely to have an opening in the skin whether through injury, surgery, intravenous access or a cut or sting
  • The patient comes into contact with the bacteria through a third party

What are the symptoms of Necrotising Fasciitis?

The symptoms of necrotising fasciitis develop quickly over hours or days. They may not be obvious at first and can be similar to less serious conditions such as flu.

Early symptoms (1 2 days) can include:

  • a small but painful cut or scratch on the skin
  • intense pain that's out of proportion to any damage to the skin
  • a high temperature (fever) and other flu-like symptoms

More advanced symptoms (3 4 days), may develop such as:

  • swelling and redness in the painful area
  • dark blotches on the skin that turn into fluid-filled blisters
  • vomiting
  • fever

If left untreated, the infection can spread through the body quickly and cause symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, confusion and septic shock.

What Treatment is Necessary for Necrotising Fasciitis?

Urgent identification and treatment of Necrotising Fasciitis is vital to ensure the survival of the patient. Both surgery and antibiotics will be necessary.

  • Debridement (surgical removal of the affected tissue) will be necessary to prevent the further spreading of the infection. This may be repeated until all affected tissue is removed.
  • Antibiotics appropriate to the relevant bacteria should be administered intravenously.
  • The patient may need to be moved to intensive care
  • Delayed identification, delayed treatment or inadequate debridement may lead to a need for amputation of the affected area.

Failure to Recognise MRSA and Necrotising Fasciitis

Both MRSA and Necrotising Fasciitis need to be diagnosed and treated without delay to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient. However, there can often be a delay in diagnosis, thereby allowing the infection to spread and cause significant damage. Inappropriate treatment can also result in significant problems.

If you or a loved one have been affected by a failure to diagnose, a delay in diagnosis, or inadequate or inappropriate treatment, you may be entitled to make a claim for medical negligence.

Glynns Solicitors is a niche medical negligence law firm acting for victims of substandard medical care across England and Wales.

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