Severe pressure sores usually develop an open wound on the patient's body and create a higher risk for contracting infection causing bacteria that can cause necrotizing fasciitis, commonly referred to as the ‘flesh-eating virus.' The infectious condition does not actually “eat” the flesh but causes the surrounding tissue to die. A failure to treat necrotizing fasciitis often results in death. Because of that, many surviving family members will file a wrongful death lawsuit claiming medical malpractice or nursing home negligence.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents victims of medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and other types of professional negligence. Our law firm has successfully prosecuted cases for our clients who suffered necrotizing fasciitis or bedsores caused by the mistreatment of others. Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions on how to receive the monetary compensation you deserve if your injuries were a result of someone else's negligence. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
What is Necrotizing Fasciitis?
The condition is a fast-spreading, life-threatening infection that causes significant damage to the skin, muscles, and underlying tissue in the patient's body. While many forms of bacteria can cause a condition, the deadliest and most severe bacteria is Streptococcus pyogenes (beta-hemolytic streptococci). Without immediate treatment, including aggressive surgery, the progressive inflammatory infection can spread rapidly to other areas of the body including the extremities. Many patients who develop the infection require amputation of the leg or arm or died within weeks after contracting the condition.
Typically, necrotizing fasciitis develops because of pressure sore complications where the open ulcer provides the perfect environment for bacteria to grow in deep fascia tissue. Fascial connective tissue surrounds blood vessels nerves and muscles and creates a slippery surface for body parts to move against each other. Once the infection settles in the fascia, it begins to kill the surrounding tissue that will require immediate medical intervention.
Necrotizing Fasciitis Causes
To acquire necrotizing fasciitis, the body needs to be invaded by deadly bacteria. This usually happens when the skin is broken, like from a bedsore (pressure wound, pressure sore, pressure ulcer, decubitus ulcer). The most common forms of bacteria that cause the condition include:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
- E. coli (Escherichia coli)
- Clostridium difficile (C-diff)
- Aeromonas hydrophila
The bacteria above can enter an open wound caused by an insect bite, burn, scrape, cut, surgical site, or puncture wound like those caused by intravenous (IV) drug use. Many of these bacteria are highly resistant to strong antibiotics.
Nearly all forms of necrotizing fasciitis create toxins that compromise the patient's immune system and cause a series of other conditions including:
- Tissue damage
- Tissue death
- Dissolving connective tissue
- Tissue hypoxia (oxygen deficiency)
- Progression to polymicrobial infection
- Sepsis, a life-threatening infection in the bloodstream
Doctors often challenge their diagnosis when the patient suffers from idiopathic necrotizing fasciitis where there is no known identifiable etiologic factor causing the condition.
Necrotizing Fasciitis Symptoms
Most patients infected with necrotizing fasciitis already had an existing infection from a wound, abscess, or cellulitis (severe bacterial skin infection). Most of the common symptoms associated with developing and progressive necrotizing fasciitis include:
- Chills and fevers
- Intense fatigue
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Sensitivity to touch in the affected area
- A lack of healing at the infection site
- Swelling and redness (erythema)
- Skin discoloration
- Infrequent urination
- Fluid-filled blisters (bullae) and skin ulcerations
- Black scabs from necrotic (dead) tissue
- Gas formations in underlying tissue that can create a crackling sound beneath the skin
- Pus and fluid that drains from the infected wound
- Bacteremia (septic shock) that produces rapid breathing, low blood pressure, and an altered mental state
The Stages of Necrotizing Fasciitis
In the beginning stages of necrotizing fasciitis, the patient will likely already be suffering from an internal infection that develops from minor trauma that causes the skin to open, like a developing bedsore. The early symptoms described below typically develop within 24 hours.
- The patient will likely experience minimal pain that does not necessarily feel tender, swollen, or sore at the affected site but radiates down to a limb or other region of the body.
- The patient usually fills disproportionate pain to their open wound that might for like a pulled muscle that intensifies when the area is stretched or moved.
- The nursing home resident will likely develop flu-like symptoms including weakness, dizziness, confusion, fever, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, and overall malaise.
- As the condition progresses, the nursing home resident will begin experiencing intense pain in a limb that begins to swell or display a purple/red rash.
- The extremity may display darkened, large marks that look like a blister filled with black fluid, and with necrotic (dead), flaky tissue that has a blotchy dark, blue, or white appearance.
- At its most critical stage, necrotizing fasciitis causes the patient's blood pressure to drop severely.
- The nursing home resident will likely go into septic shock (life-threatening bacteremia) where the bacterial toxins are transported through the bloodstream to other areas of the body.
- Before death, the resident will likely experience unconsciousness when their immune system is too weak to kill off the infection.
Am I at Risk?
Statistically, males are more likely to develop necrotizing fasciitis compared to females, and those living close to coastal regions with warm seawater are at risk due to contamination caused by infectious organisms. Generally, any individual with an infection has at least a minimal risk of acquiring necrotizing fasciitis. However, individuals with an elevated risk of developing the condition include:
- The elderly
- Diabetic patients
- Patients with skin lesions
- Infants and small children
- Individuals with liver disease
- Cancer patients
- Chronic lung or heart disease patients
- Patients with a compromised immune system or suffering from an immunosuppressant condition
- Those that suffer from a deep infection in the gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract, joint, bone, or muscle
- Expected mothers who have diabetes or underwent specific procedures including an episiotomy (vaginal surgical cut during childbirth) or C-section (cesarean section)
- Steroid users
- Those who abuse drugs or injection medications
If you believe you are at risk, look for the early warning signs of necrotizing fasciitis that are characterized by severe pain and swelling at the infected site, frequently accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting without much change in appearance of the wound. As the bacteria develops, larger areas may get involved leaving large patches of decaying skin.
Preventing Necrotizing Fasciitis
Typically, necrotizing fasciitis will not develop until the patient is already suffering from another infection caused by trauma to the skin, like the development of a bedsore. Doctors and nurses can help prevent the development of the life-threatening condition by providing optimal medical care and following infection-preventing practices.
The nursing home administration and the Director of Nurses should mandate that the nursing staff follow infection avoidance practices including routine handwashing when providing care to the resident. Minimizing the potential spread of infection throughout the facility could eliminate the transferring of a life-threatening condition between residents. Also, the nursing staff should follow handwashing practices when providing hygiene assistance, wound care, and administering oral medication and drugs given through intravenous tubes and needles.
The nursing home Wound Nurse should conduct a comprehensive skin evaluation of the resident weekly, or according to physician's orders and the patient's Care Plan. Diabetic resident should avoid physical contact with individuals infected with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C-diff), or other contagious bacteria. The residents suffering from liver disease should avoid consuming seafood that might be contaminated with deadly Vibrio vulnificus.
Any nursing home resident that has cognitive impairment, restricted mobility, nutritional deficit, or an existing bedsore must receive an elevated level of nursing care to minimize the potential of developing an infection.
Nursing Home Negligence Caused My Necrotizing Fasciitis. Do I Have A Case?
While it is often difficult for a doctor to diagnose necrotizing fasciitis and provide effective treatment, a failure to diagnose the condition could have a fatal outcome. Too many times, the nursing home resident's physician never considers their patient is suffering from the condition until it develops into a life-threatening problem.
In many cases, the victim or surviving family members will file a nursing home neglect case or wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for their damages. Their attorneys will build their case citing many of the complications associated with their condition were exacerbated due to a doctor or nurse's neglect. These complications can include:
- A local infection developed into necrotizing fasciitis and cause progressive tissue damage and tissue death.
- The life-threatening infection became systemic producing sepsis (bloodstream infection) and shock.
- Because of the medical team's negligence, the resident now suffers from scars and disfigurement.
- The necrotizing fasciitis infection advanced too far and cause the functional loss of the leg or arm which might have resulted in amputation.
- The resident died due to the neglectful actions of the medical team and nursing staff.
How Much is my Case Worth?
The evidence and facts surrounding your medical condition are unique to your case which makes it difficult to determine its financial worth if your claim is settled out of court or heard at trial. However, the nursing home neglect attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC use effective tools to determine the value of your claim to ensure you recover all of your damages including:
- Hospital expenses;
- Medical bills;
- The projected future medical expenses that might include life care assistance;
- The loss of past and future income;
- Non--tangible damages including physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of quality of life, and the loss of full worth of life in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Recent court cases can provide valuable insight on how much your case might be worth if it is negotiated out-of-court or heard in a jury trial.
In 2013, the jury awarded the plaintiff a $7,650,000 verdict. A 47-year-old Virginia man was taken to the hospital after experiencing a bone fracture caused by a vehicle crash and was discharged one week later. The patient saw an orthopedist after developing blisters on his thigh that had drained pus and created an open wound. However, lawsuit documents reveal that the orthopedist never removed the patient's bandages to view the wound.
Within days, the man was taken to the local emergency room where doctors diagnosed him with necrotizing fasciitis and performed numerous debridement procedures to remove dead tissue. Ultimately, the man required an amputation of the leg above the knee and later received a hip amputation (disarticulation) and a left arm amputation below the elbow.
In 2012, the jury awarded the plaintiff a $1,500,000 verdict. A 38-year-old Maryland man went to an urgent care center north of Baltimore complaining of a painful red cyst that had become swollen near his testicles. The facility transported the patient to the local medical center to undergo a CT (computerized tomography) scan where doctors diagnosed the patient with cellulitis.
Within days, the patient was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis that requires debridement surgery to remove dead tissue. The doctors removed a testicle and a part of the patient's penis and performed a skin graft. The patient underwent additional surgical procedures. The jury found in favor of the patient over the doctors because of their failure to effectively treat the necrotizing fasciitis that was identified in the CT scan.
Time is of the Essence in Pursuing a Case Involving Decubitus Ulcers
Many legitimate cases of nursing home negligence and medical malpractice never get prosecuted because staff at medical facilities incorrectly told the family that the complication was ‘inevitable' or simply ‘normal.' In many cases, complications such as infected pressure ulcers are the result of negligent care.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand that your injuries were not yout fault but caused by the careless actions of the nursing staff. We have successfully obtained millions on behalf of the victims and their family members to ensure they were adequately compensated to cover their medical expenses, household bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain, suffering, and emotional damage and we can help your family too.
Our legal team encourages you to contact our attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim. We accept all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and medical mistake injury claims through contingency fee arrangements. This legal contract postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully completed your case through a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
Our law firm gets results quickly because we understand you need money now. We proudly offer every client a “No Win/No-Fee” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will stay confidential.