A Severe Infection, Known as Osteomyelitis, can Lead to Harmful Complications and Permanent Damage if it is Misdiagnosed, Undiagnosed, or Contracted Due to Medical Malpractice.
Certain conditions, like diabetes, can leave patients vulnerable to infections. Surgery, injury, bacteria, fungi, food contamination, viruses, parasites, and insect bites are also sources of infection. When left to fester in the body, an infection can spread to other body parts, including the bones. Healthcare professionals who mistake an infection for another condition or fail to safeguard a patient against infection may negligently cause osteomyelitis, ultimately leading to dire consequences.
Understanding Osteomyelitis as a Medical Condition
Osteomyelitis is a rare bone infection that causes painful inflammation or swelling at the infection site. Bacteria (typically, staphylococcus aureus) or fungi may cause infection in the body that spreads through the bloodstream to the bones or joints. However, it can also start in the bone after an injury. The condition is either acute or chronic. When treated early, osteomyelitis often disappears but can cause chronic, long-term damage when left untreated.
Breaking Down the Different Types of Osteomyelitis
The three most common types of osteomyelitis reflect the source of infection and its pathway. So, for example, the source of hematogenous osteomyelitis is bacterial when infections affect the long bones in the arms and legs of children. Adults get it in the hips and spine. The infection may start in the bones after an injury, such as a fracture or break, or it originates somewhere else in the body and moves to the bones.
Another type is contiguous-focus osteomyelitis, which refers to bone infection after an injury or spreading from another area of the body but also arises from infection following a surgical procedure.
Vascular Disease-Related Osteomyelitis
The third kind, osteomyelitis, connected to vascular disease, develops from inadequate blood supply moving through the veins from certain conditions, like diabetes.
Top Culprits for Osteomyelitis
Although the condition is rare, it does affect up to five of every 10,000 people and has been around for millions of years. Its causes are well known, too. Since the root cause is microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, any condition that allows such organisms to enter the body exposes the body to infection. For example, skin breaks from falls, scrapes, broken bones, or surgeries (especially for prosthetics insertion) allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and settle into the bones. But even harmless bacteria on your skin surface can turn into osteomyelitis when you get a paper cut, and staphylococcus aureus enters the body.
Once an infection from a cut develops, it may infect other areas of the body, namely, the bones. The body’s defense mechanism to fight infection is to produce white blood cells that release chemicals to fight the bacteria. The result is pus formation that clogs the blood vessels in the bone. Without sufficient blood flow, the bones die. However, the body can reproduce bone that appears on X-rays as deformed bone structures. The more bone deformities present, the more likely the patient has chronic or persistent osteomyelitis.
At Risk Populations for Osteomyelitis
Some people are more vulnerable to osteomyelitis. The elderly, especially those with recent bone injuries, orthopedic surgery, skin infection, and open wounds, are particularly vulnerable as their immune systems are weak, they suffer more blood circulation disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes, and may have more surgeries.
Additionally, individuals with compromised immune systems, injected drug use habits, conditions requiring an intravenous line, and blood circulation problems. When these or other patients present to a healthcare professional with pain, swelling, redness, and warmth at the infection site with fever or chills, they may be symptomatic. Children may appear irritable or lethargic, but some patients have no symptoms.
How Do Doctors Confirm a Diagnosis of Osteomyelitis?
When a physician learns of these symptoms, coupled with a patient’s reporting a recent bone injury, other wounds, surgery, or infection, they will run a blood test to check for a high white blood cell count, one sign of infection. Additionally, x-rays and CT scans reveal abnormal bone structure growth, and bone biopsies identify the source of the infection for prescribing the right antibiotic.
Options for Treating Osteomyelitis
Antibiotics may be the sole treatment a patient needs to cure the disease. However, advanced osteomyelitis leading to bone death and reduced blood flow may require a lengthy trial of antibiotics and surgery to drain the infection, and repair damaged bone for the proper blood flow to return and contain the infection. In the worst cases, a surgeon may have to amputate the affected area to prevent further infection spreading and damage.
Ways Medical Professionals can be Negligent with Osteomyelitis
Early diagnosis and intervention are critical to an optimal patient outcome. A doctor who does not identify osteomyelitis by a patient’s symptoms and thorough history is likely negligent and may be held liable for medical malpractice. The patient’s complaints and history of a recent surgery, injury, or infection should prompt a competent medical doctor to run tests to diagnose osteomyelitis or treat the condition. Delayed treatment worsens the destructive spread of the infection and the patient’s outcome.
Untreated osteomyelitis results in costly and painful surgeries, possible joint damage, amputation, and cancer at the damaged site. When physicians make mistakes they should not make, considering their education and experience level, they cause patients devastating harm. Patients who lose limbs need prosthetics and therapy. Some may require multiple surgeries to treat chronic osteomyelitis. They live with pain and loss.
Can You Hold Providers Responsible for Failure to Diagnose or Misdiagnosis of Osteomyelitis in NJ?
When other doctors following standard diagnostic and treatment protocols would have discovered osteomyelitis and prevented further harm, your doctor may be liable for your pain, suffering, and financial damages for medical malpractice. Medical professionals owe patients a duty to practice medicine up to the acceptable standards of their profession. When they breach that duty, they are negligent and must pay for the damages their negligence causes.
Contact a New Jersey Osteomyelitis Malpractice Lawyer for Guidance
If you or someone you love experienced osteomyelitis that was wrongfully diagnosed, delayed in being diagnosed, or improperly treated, you may be able to obtain the financial support you need to pay for your past and ongoing medical needs and your other economic losses. You may have lost income due to long-term hospitalization and drug therapy or frequent medical visits. A medical malpractice award can cover the financial and psychological costs of a medical professional’s negligence that caused you injury.
Although you must prove your medical provider was negligent through documentary and expert testimony evidence, you are not alone in handling your medical malpractice case. With the help of the talented team of medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group, we can explore what occurred in your case to determine if you have a claim for medical malpractice and if so, diligently construct and argue for the highest possible monetary award for you and your loved ones. Contact our New Jersey Osteomyelitis lawyers for your free initial consultation. You can start by calling 973-435-4551 or contacting us online.