Diagnosing necrotising fasciitis promptly is fundamental to increasing the patient’s chances of survival. A delay in diagnosis, leading to a delay in treatment, can prove fatal.
Issues of diagnosis
Due to its rarity and its similarity to other conditions such as cellulitis, diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis can be difficult and, in order to clarify a diagnosis, surgical investigation and biopsy is usually necessary. But time is of the essence and, where any uncertainty exists, erring on the side of caution is preferable.
Symptoms of necrotising fasciitis
A patient in the early stages of necrotising fasciitis may present to their GP with the following symptoms:
- Intense pain in the affected area which is most likely to be somewhere in the abdominal region or the limbs or groin
- Tenderness and swelling in the same area
- Redness and possible blisters in the same area
As time passes, the patient may begin to feel extremely unwell with a high temperature, fast heartbeat and fast breathing.
Once the patient’s blood pressure begins to drop, they are in danger of multiple organ failure and there chance of survival is decreased.
Investigating necrotising fasciitis
Blood tests may be taken in order to try to differentiate between possible diagnoses. The LRINEC score may be used to assess results of the following which might indicate necrotising fasciitis:
- White blood cell count
- Glucose levels
- C-reactive protein levels
- Creatinine levels
- Sodium levels
Evidence of a cut or wound to the affected area might also be an indicator that the patient is developing necrotising fasciitis. The illness is usually caused by bacteria accessing the subcutaneous tissue in the body via an open wound. This may be as obvious as a surgical incision or it may be as insignificant as a graze.
The pre-existing medical context of the patient may also be useful knowledge as people with diabetes, liver problems or a weak immune system are susceptible to this appalling illness.
Patients who have recently undergone surgery or who have developed bed sores may raise the possibility of necrotising fasciitis.
Ultimately, exploratory surgery is the definitive way to establish if the patient is suffering with necrotising fasciitis.
Emergency surgery is also necessary in order to halt the spread of the infection through the body’s tissue.
Clearly, a prompt diagnosis or suspected diagnosis is crucial in order to instigate surgery as the only way to save the patient’s life.
If symptoms of necrotising fasciitis are not acted upon with urgency, leaving the patient with a poor long-term outcome, the relevant medical professional may be considered to have acted negligently.
Even where the patient survives, the physical and psychological impact of necrotising fasciitis can be devastating and compensation can help to deal with the difficulties associated with life after necrotising fasciitis.
Contact us to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor if you loved one have suffered unnecessarily form this shocking illness.