Necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating disease, is a rare bacterial infection that can lead to serious health issues. Necrosis is the death of organ or tissue cells due to several causes, so necrotizing is the dying of cells in organs or tissue. Fascia is the tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, vessels, and organs and holds them in place. Fasciitis is inflammation of the fascia. Thus, necrotizing fasciitis is a life-threatening disease that starts as an infection that can result in organ, tissue, and muscle damage. At its most severe, it can lead to organ failure, septic shock, amputation, and death.
An aggressive medical condition like necrotizing fasciitis needs a quick, forceful response. As a result, a physician who makes errors when identifying, diagnosing, treating, or ensuring proper treatment for necrotizing fasciitis jeopardizes a patient’s life. When a physician misdiagnoses the symptoms, applies the wrong treatment, commits surgical errors, or any other negligence, they may be a named defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional commits errors that a professional with similar education, training, and experience would not make under similar circumstances. When medical negligence causes a person harm, the culpable party can be sued to justly compensate the malpractice victim or their family in the case of their untimely death.
If you or someone you love has experienced harm due to medical errors with necrotizing fasciitis in New Jersey, Fronzuto Law Group is a team of highly accomplished medical malpractice lawyers who can assist you. With a concentration on this area of law and decades of experience representing medical negligence victims throughout the state, our firm is poised to investigate, review, and explore your options for filing a lawsuit. Contact our office at 973-435-4551 to discuss your case or request a free consultation online today.
Common Ways Necrotizing Fasciitis can Occur
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Group A strep bacteria is the most common cause of the condition, but other bacteria may also be responsible for the disease. Common entry points for bacteria are cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, punctures, and surgical wounds. Deep bruising or bed sores can also cause necrotizing fasciitis. Nursing home patients and those bedridden for lengthy periods are especially susceptible to infection with persistent open wounds from bedsores. However, anyone with a skin-penetrating injury can cause the disease-causing bacteria to enter the bloodstream and begin the tissue destruction that continues until treatment stops the spread.
At Risk Populations for Necrotizing Fasciitis
Since the immune system fights infections, those with compromised immunity are most at risk for getting the illness. So, diseases like diabetes, cancer, and liver cirrhosis lower immunity and increase the risk of infection, since the body’s defenses cannot fight off invasive microorganisms. Other factors affecting the immune system are obesity, intravenous drug use, alcohol addiction, and peripheral vascular disease, a circulation disorder.
Noticing the Signs of Necrotizing Fasciitis
When a person has necrotizing fasciitis, they often experience signs of infection, such as fever and pain at the wound site, detectable by hot, swollen skin areas that radiate to other places. As the disease spreads, symptoms worsen. In just days, the afflicted individual may have ulcerations, blisters, black spots, or discolorations on the skin and oozing pus at the infection site. In the advanced stages, an individual may have diarrhea, dizziness, tiredness, or nausea. After four or five days, the stricken individual’s blood pressure drops dangerously low. They may become unconscious.
Why is Early Diagnosis so Important when a Person has Necrotizing Fasciitis?
Since early necrotizing fasciitis symptoms mimic other common illnesses, those with the condition may not seek medical attention soon enough. An early diagnosis is crucial to a more successful treatment outcome and prevention of serious damage. In turn, early infection symptoms after surgery or another invasive injury should prompt the injured individual to get help. A doctor can biopsy the infected area, examine blood samples for infection, or review imaging results, such as CT scans, ultrasounds, or MRIs. But immediate treatment is necessary before a confirmed diagnosis. Therefore, physicians must err on the side of caution and treat the condition immediately if they suspect that the patient has it.
Possible Complications from Failure to Diagnose or Treat Necrotizing Fasciitis
The disease is fast-spreading and destructive of critical tissue, muscle, organs, and blood vessels, so a victim must receive prompt treatment in a hospital, where they can undergo surgery and receive intravenous antibiotics. The antibiotics may kill off some but not all of the bacteria. For those areas too damaged for blood flow, a surgeon must remove the dead tissue, a procedure called debridement, to stop the spread. Sometimes one surgery does not control the disease, and multiple surgeries or blood transfusions are necessary.
However, the treatment depends on the type of bacteria that caused the infection and the disease’s progression. A patient may need intravenous antibodies, skin grafts, or amputation to stop the infection. Those with infections caused by anaerobic bacteria may need oxygen therapy in a hyperbaric chamber to control the bacterial spread. A doctor must identify the specific cause of the disease to treat it properly.
Even after treatment, the infection may spread and lead to further tissue, organ, and muscle damage. A patient can lose an arm or leg, suffer disfigurement, or die. One-fifth of necrotizing fasciitis patients die; however, the treatment outcome depends on the bacterial source, the spread’s speed, the antibiotics’ effectiveness, and how quickly the diagnosis came. Thus, the burden is on the physician to act soon and choose the proper treatment. They may be liable for the patient’s resulting injuries or death when they do not.
Practical Case Examples of Medical Negligence with Necrotizing Fasciitis
For example, sending a patient home with the wrong antibiotics for a superficial infection may cause unnecessary damage when they end up in the hospital with fast-spreading necrotizing fasciitis that destroys organs or limbs and leaves the patient unconscious.
In addition, post-operation patients are particularly vulnerable to wound infections. One patient who underwent knee replacement returned to the hospital and was misdiagnosed with cellulitis. He eventually had his leg amputated because of the delay in diagnosing necrotizing fasciitis. The physician and medical facility were liable for the man’s damages in a settlement of over half a million dollars.
Another patient sued his plastic surgeon when bowel punctures caused sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis that required several surgeries. The patient went in for liposuction and came out with a life-threatening disease. He sued the surgeon and received over a quarter of a million in damages compensation.
Have Your Necrotizing Fasciitis Case Review by an Experienced Lawyer Handling Claims for New Jersey Victims
When you or someone you love has suffered unfortunate health losses due to undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or untreated necrotizing fasciitis, it is of paramount importance to find out what a medical malpractice lawyer has to say about your case. With in-depth knowledge of how the medical and legal system uniquely interwinds in malpractice claims, an experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorney at Fronzuto Law Group can advise you on the merits of your possible claim and what it will take to get the compensation you deserve for your health and financial losses. We dedicate all of our efforts and forethought to obtaining compensation for necrotizing fasciitis-related losses now, and any continuing losses resulting from a healthcare provider’s improper care. Call 973-435-4551 to speak with a lawyer regarding your case free of charge.