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Necrotising Fasciitis
Timing in the Treatment of Necrotising Fasciitis

Timing in the Treatment of Necrotising Fasciitis

A recent report from The Netherlands (Sander F.L. van Stigt et al.), reviewing 58 patients with necrotising fasciitis, commented that 'early surgical aggressive debridement (in necrotising fasciitis) is associated with a lower mortality when performed within 24 hours.'

Why is timing so significant in treating necrotising fasciitis?

What is necrotising fasciitis?

Necrotising fasciitis is a rare, soft-tissue infection. It can be caused by a variety of bacteria, such as Group A streptococci, which may otherwise exist harmlessly on the body, but which become life-threatening when they reach the deeper tissue layers of the body.

The devastating effects of necrotising fasciitis

The fundamental reason why necrotising fasciitis requires such prompt attention from medical practitioners is the horrific damage that the infection can inflict.

The bacteria which cause the infection release toxins which destroy the surrounding tissue and spread through the fascia (connecting tissue layers) of the body to other areas. The tissue affected by the infection dies. Treatment usually requires removal of the damaged tissue, sometimes leading to amputation of a limb. If left untreated, necrotising fasciitis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

If the infection spreads to the blood stream, it can lead to blood-poisoning.

The speed of development of necrotising fasciitis

Another significant factor is the alarming rate at which necrotising fasciitis spreads through the body. Within 24 hours of contracting the infection, the patient may be experiencing intense pain in the region of the infection site usually a cut or wound - as well as flu-like symptoms, and within 5 days may be unconscious with blood-poisoning and toxic shock.

The mortality rate of necrotising fasciitis

As a result of these devastating factors extent of damage and speed of destruction - necrotising fasciitis has a shockingly high mortality rate. In the study cited, approximately 30% of the patients died. Even with treatment, the rate of mortality from necrotising fasciitis can be as high as 40%.

Treatment of necrotising fasciitis

With such a rapidly-spreading infection and high mortality rate, it is clear that an urgent medical response is vital.

Two approaches are necessary as an emergency to try to combat the spread of the infection:

  • Intravenous antibiotics to try to counter the infection
  • Surgical debridement removal of all dead tissue. The above-mentioned report referred to 'aggressive' debridement which is necessary to ensure that all affected tissue is removed. Without this, the infection will continue to spread, requiring further debridement and, ultimately, possibly the amputation of a limb.

Alongside these responses, the patient is likely to need life-supporting interventions whilst their body tries to deal with the impact of the infection.

Medical Negligence

As can be seen from the above, if left untreated, necrotising fasciitis is at best a life-changing condition. If you or a loved one have suffered the appalling effects of necrotising fasciitis due to delayed diagnosis or treatment, you may be entitled to claim compensation for the damage caused.

Contact Glynns Solicitors to discuss your circumstances with a solicitor. We are a specialist medical negligence practice with significant experience in supporting clients who have suffered from necrotising fasciitis.

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