An Emergency Room Visit Gone Bad
Our client started experiencing a medical problem and was seen in the emergency room. After 3-4 attempts, an IV was successfully placed in her arm. Within hours her symptoms, in no way connected with her hand or arm, were resolved and she was allowed to go home.
Later that night, our client awoke to pain in the exact area she received her IV. When she turned on the light she was horrified to see her hand, wrist and lower arm swollen to almost twice its size. The pain was almost unbearable.
She was immediately taken back to the emergency room and diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis (NF) also known as the flesh-eating bacteria. Doctors immediately ordered our client transported to another hospital where she received emergency surgery.
After all the necessary tests were run, the necrotizing fasciitis diagnosis was confirmed. The initial surgery and follow-up procedures saved our client’s arm and life. Our consulting experts determined that the bacteria was introduced in to our client’s system via the IV needle that pricked her arm several times before being correctly inserted. As you can see from the pictures, the NF was substantial and despite being immediately treated and operated on, the surgeries left a life-long scar.
As you probably know, our client is not the only victim of the flesh-eating bacteria.
Across the country, a highly publicized NF case involving a Georgia graduate student, Aimee Copeland, made the evening news. According to reports, Aimee’s infection was caused by water-borne bacteria she contracted after falling from a zip-line into a river and gashing her leg. Unfortunately, Aimee lost her left leg, right foot and hands to NF.
In South Carolina, Lana Kuykendall, contracted the flesh-eating bacterial infection shortly after giving birth to twins. She was hospitalized after noticing a painful spot on her leg that quickly grew larger. After more than 20 surgeries on her legs, including skin graphs, she is now recovering. Fortunately, Lana did not require any amputations.
So what is necrotizing fasciitis?
Well, NF is generally considered a rare but very severe type of bacterial infection. If not immediately treated, it can destroy the muscles, skin, and underlying tissue. The word “necrotizing” refers to something that causes body tissue to die.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
While many different types of bacteria can cause this infection, a very severe and usually deadly form of necrotizing soft tissue infection is due to Streptococcus pyogenes, which is commonly referred to as the “flesh-eating bacteria.”
NF develops when the bacteria enters the body. As with Aimee Copeland, this can happen through a minor cut or scrape. With our client, experts were ready to testify that the NF was introduced into our client’s system via an unclean IV procedure.
We’ve seen health care providers try to avoid accepting responsibility for exposing patients to NF. But the fact of the matter is that with all of the bacteria floating around in emergency rooms and hospitals, NF is a know risk to patients seeking care in hospitals.
In any case, once in the body, the bacteria begins to grow and release harmful substances (toxins) that kill tissue and affect blood flow to the area. As the tissue dies, the bacteria enters the blood and rapidly spreads throughout the body.
Some of the symptoms you may notice with NF include a small, red, painful lump or bump on the skin; changes to a very painful bruise-like area and grows rapidly, sometimes in less than an hour; the center may become black and die; and the skin may break open and ooze fluid. Other symptoms might include feeling ill; fever; sweating; chills; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and shock
If you have NF, several treatment plans, to prevent death, include powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics given immediately through a vein (IV); surgery to drain the sore and remove dead tissue; special medicines called donor immunoglobulins (antibodies) to help fight the infection. Other treatments may include: skin grafts after the infection goes away to help your skin heal and look better; amputation if the disease spreads through an arm or leg; 100% oxygen at high pressure (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) for certain types of bacterial infections
NF can and is severe and may be life threatening. It’s important you contact your health care provider immediately if you have any of the above symptoms.
If you have questions or concerns about what caused your NF, coordinate your investigation with competent legal counsel and independent medical experts. In our experience, that’s the only way you’ll truly know what caused your infection.