Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as ‘flesh eating disease,’ is a skin infection that results in the loss of the body’s soft tissue. It occurs when different strains of bacteria directly enter the soft tissue under the skin, or through blood infections.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a rapidly spreading inflammatory infection of the skin fascia that can be difficult to recognize in its early stages, especially if the physician is not exercising proper diligence in evaluating the patient’s symptoms.
Necrotizing fasciitis often occurs in people with open wounds, which are prone to infection. Patients may experience open wounds if they suffered burns, skin lacerations, bites, blunt trauma injuries, or recently gave birth.
People with pressure sores are also at a higher risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis. Nursing home patients and people who suffer from a condition that requires them to remain in the same position for long periods of time are all at an increased risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis.
Necrotizing Fasciitis Is Difficult to Diagnose and Treat, Making it Easy for Physicians to Avoid Responsibility
Necrotizing fasciitis is a complicated and difficult condition to diagnose and manage. However, a quick diagnosis is one of the keys to successfully treating necrotizing fasciitis.
This also means that when a patient suffers an amputation or death due to necrotizing fasciitis, it is easy for a physician to attempt to avoid responsibility.
When necrotizing fasciitis does occur, it is often because a physician failed to consider necrotizing fasciitis as a possible diagnosis. A failure to consider necrotizing fasciitis as a possible condition can lead to a claim for medical negligence.
Once necrotizing fasciitis begins to spread, it requires aggressive surgical treatment that often includes debridement and aggressive antibiotics. Even when treated, necrotizing fasciitis can lead to amputation or even death.
Risk Factors That Can Lead to Necrotizing Fasciitis
More than 70% of cases of cases of necrotizing fasciitis occur in people with the following risk factors include:
- poor immune function due to diabetes or cancer
- I/V drug use and
- peripheral vascular disease.
The onset of necrotizing fasciitis can be vague. However, the patient’s condition will deteriorate quickly, and is often followed by a rash around the injured area accompanied by severe swelling. The wound will begin to look necrotic. The patient’s condition will then quickly go from bad to worse, with a drop in blood pressure and septic shock due to the toxins in the blood stream. These symptoms could mean any number of things but should indicate to the physician that there is an underlying problem that they should address.
Signs and Symptoms of Necrotizing Fasciitis
Early signs and symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis may include a minor wound with pain in the general area that is disproportionate to the injury, red or purple skin around the wound, and flu-like symptoms including severe pain, fever, and vomiting. In the first 24 hours a patient will often describe feeling worse than they have ever felt without understanding why.
Over the next 3-4 days the patient’s limb will begin to swell and show a purple rash. The limb may have dark marks that blister and fill with black fluid, and the wound may begin to appear necrotic.
After 4-5 days the patient’s blood pressure will drop severely and the body will go into septic shock. The patient will fall unconscious as the body becomes too weak to fight the infection.
Once a patient loses consciousness, it is critical for the doctor to diagnose necrotizing fasciitis. Antibiotics must be prescribed quickly and administered through an I/V to fight the infection. Skin grafts may be required to repair the damaged skin, but amputation is often necessary.
Even after treatment, necrotizing fasciitis can spread.
Complications After Necrotizing Fasciitis
A patient’s prognosis following necrotizing fasciitis will depend on a number of factors, including:
- How quickly the disease was diagnosed
- The type of bacteria causing the infection
- How quickly the infection spread
- How well the antibiotics work
Necrotizing fasciitis is treated through debridement, the surgical removal of affected tissue, is necessary to keep the infection from spreading.
Necrotizing fasciitis is severe and can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failures, extensive tissue loss, and death.
The key to avoiding death or serious injury is early diagnosis and aggressive surgical management.
Complications from necrotizing fasciitis can include:
- Spread of infection leading to progressive tissue damage
- Systemic infection leading to sepsis and septic shock
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of function in an arm or leg
To successfully pursue a medical negligence claim arising out of a failure to diagnose or treat necrotizing fasciitis, you need to work with an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer who can uncover the important facts and will work with world-class expert witnesses to maximize the opportunity for a just verdict.
Robenalt Law Can Help
If you or a family member suffered, required an amputation, or died because of necrotizing fasciitis, you may be entitled to compensation. Robenalt Law can obtain and review the necessary medical records and consult with an expert physician to determine whether you have a case for medical malpractice based on a failure to diagnose or treat necrotizing fasciitis. Contact an experienced Ohio medical malpractice lawyer at Robenalt Law today today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call 216-223-7535, complete our online form, or email [email protected].
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.