You trust your doctor to either know how to diagnose and treat your medical condition or at the very least, to understand when to refer you to someone with the expertise to handle your case, especially in the case of infections. Septic arthritis is one such serious infectious condition that, if not diagnosed and treated quickly, can lead to permanently damaged joints and other serious complications. When a doctor or another medical provider fails to appropriately diagnose or manage septic arthritis, the consequences for your health can be severe. If this occurs and you are wondering what options you may have to hold them accountable, the next thing to do is seek knowledgeable legal counsel.
At Fronzuto Law Group, our attorneys have successfully represented countless clients in medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals whose negligence led to serious harm. If you wish to speak with an experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorney who can assist with your septic arthritis case, answer your questions, and discuss your available options, call 973-435-4551 or contact us online. A member of our team is always available to assist you and consultations are provided free of charge.
What is Septic Arthritis?
Septic arthritis, or infectious arthritis, is a joint infection, commonly found in the knees but can also occur in the hips, shoulders and other joints. It is characterized by swollen, intensely painful joints with redness, warmth and stiffness, accompanied by chills and fever. The condition can present in a similar manner to other conditions, for example, rheumatoid arthritis or staph infection. If left untreated, the cartilage and bone within the joint degenerates and can be permanently damaged within mere days. In some cases of septic arthritis, the affected limb must be amputated. With the dangerous nature of this condition, prompt treatment is essential.
What Causes Septic Arthritis?
Septic arthritis is caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus, typically staphylococcus aureus infection, but also a urinary tract or skin infection. 91% of septic arthritis cases stem from staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria. Among younger sexually active adults, gonorrhea is the most common disease that passes the infection from one person to another. Germs migrate through the bloodstream from one part of the body to another or go directly into the joints through an injury, injection or open wound caused by a penetrating object, such as an animal bite or surgery.
Ordinarily, your joints can protect against infection naturally, but the body’s reaction to infection causes inflammation that increases pressure and reduces blood flow in the joint, causing damage. The increased use of prosthetic joints in recent history has increased the rate of infectious arthritis. Approximately 20,000 people suffer from the condition in the U.S. annually. Tragically, 11% of those afflicted with septic arthritis die. Communicable infections, like staph infections, create conditions favorable to septic arthritis and can be contagious if a person is exposed in a non-sterile environment.
Risk Factors for Septic Arthritis
Septic arthritis largely affects infants and older people aged 65-plus, as well as those with existing joint problems. Some of the primary risk factors for septic arthritis include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Weak immune systems
- Artificial joints
- Previous joint surgery or injury
- Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
- Open wounds
- Chronic immune-suppressing conditions like diabetes, kidney, and liver disease
- Joint trauma
All who are affected by one or more of the above risk factors are far more susceptible to septic arthritis than the general population. Notably, alcoholism, intravenous drug use and low socioeconomic status are also risk factors for the condition. Further, having more than one of these risk factors increases the potential for contracting the condition. People with rheumatoid arthritis and gout are especially vulnerable to septic arthritis because of their commonly prescribed immune-suppressing medications and symptoms that mirror those of septic arthritis. Doctors often misdiagnose or miss the diagnosis in these patients. Patients with hemophilia or HIV or also at risk for septic arthritis due to their low immunity.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Septic Arthritis
Given the deadly nature of septic arthritis, a doctor should conduct arthrocentesis, the method used to detect the condition and confirm or rule out septic arthritis. In addition, blood testing and imaging tests may detect septic arthritis, but the surest method is joint aspiration, when synovial fluid in the joints is extracted and tested. Conditions that mimic the condition are abscesses, cellulitis, Lyme disease, malignancy, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteomyelitis, among others. It is critical for the treating physician to discern these imitative conditions from septic arthritis. Obtaining an accurate patient history can help the provider discover risk factors indicating probable infectious arthritis. Otherwise, there is no gold standard of early detection other than the physician’s expertise at recognizing musculoskeletal diseases and their copycats, or referring the patient to a specialist who is experienced in this area of practice. Once septic arthritis has been diagnosed, treatment may consist of intravenous antibiotics, surgery or aspirations in the affected area. Time is of the essence when a person is affected by septic arthritis, so diagnosing and treating the condition in a timely manner is a must.
Filing a Lawsuit for Septic Arthritis Malpractice in New Jersey
Failure to detect septic arthritis results in significantly higher rates of complications, permanent damage and even death. When a doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses this serious condition, they may ultimately be found liable for medical malpractice. Generally, medical malpractice occurs when a physician or other healthcare provider fails to diagnose a condition, misdiagnoses a condition, fails to treat an illness or disease, or improperly treats such an ailment, which leads to some form of injury or death for the patient. Given the training and experience of medical professionals, patients rely on their expertise to address their symptoms, provide appropriate treatment, and ultimately, to keep them from harm.
If you believe your doctor mishandled your septic arthritis case in New Jersey, you typically have two years from the date of injury (or the date at which you became aware of said injury) within which to file a malpractice lawsuit. An affidavit of merit is required by law when filing a lawsuit against a medical professional. The affidavit of merit will require a doctor in the same field as the defendant to declare under oath that the care, skill or knowledge shown during the diagnosis and treatment of the patient fell below the medical standard of care under the circumstances. There are strict time limits within which to file specific documents in order to avoid your case being dismissed. Due to the complexity of medical malpractice litigation in New Jersey, it is highly advisable to seek help from an attorney with extensive experience handling claims like yours.
Get NJ Lawyer Help with Your Septic Arthritis Negligence Case
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a doctor or other medical provider’s negligence involving diagnosis or treatment for septic arthritis, consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney at Fronzuto Law Group for more information regarding your potential claim. We will thoroughly examine your case to discern if medical negligence played a role in causing your injuries and if so, we will vigorously advocate for the compensation you deserve. With years of experience representing victims of medical and pediatric malpractice in New Jersey, our esteemed team of lawyers is prepared to help you obtain maximum damages. Contact us at 973-435-4551 for a free consultation today.
Additional & Related Information:
- Septic arthritis Background, Medscape
- Septic Arthritis Overview, MayoClinic
- Management of septic arthritis: a systematic review, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases
- Evaluation and Management of Septic Arthritis and its Mimics in the Emergency Department, The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine
- Medical Malpractice Involving Sepsis