Necrotising fasciitis is a rare condition. In this article we explore how frequently necrotising fasciitis occurs, who gets necrotising fasciitis and what happens if doctors fail to diagnose the infection.
Necrotising fasciitis frequency
According to Public Health England, there are only around 500 cases of necrotising fasciitis in the UK each year. This makes it a very rare type of bacterial infection.
It is often considered to be a hospital acquired infection, although the reality is that necrotising fasciitis can be picked up anywhere. All it takes is for the bacteria (most commonly the Group A Streptococcus bacteria) to enter the body through a gap in the skin. This can be a large surgical incision or a small cut. Sometimes the break in the skin is so small that the affected individual was not even aware he/she had sustained an injury.
Who gets necrotising fasciitis?
Necrotising fasciitis can be contracted by anyone, although there are factors that increase the risk, including obesity, diabetes, an open wound and a compromised immune system.
Because of these risk factors, necrotising fasciitis will often affect patients who are already unwell and in hospital. We have dealt with a lot of cases in which hospital patients have suffered necrotising fasciitis after:-
- Abdominal surgery, such as a C-section, gallbladder removal or a hysterectomy;
- Developing pressure sores
- Going into hospital with abscesses
However, it is not solely hospital patients that get necrotising fasciitis. As mentioned above, anyone can develop the infection, even those who are fit and healthy. It rarely occurs in children.
What happens when someone gets necrotising fasciitis?
When someone is infected with necrotising fasciitis, the bacteria will begin to multiply inside the body, releasing a toxin as they do so. This will attack the soft tissue and connective tissue, causing it to die. This is called tissue necrosis.
When the tissue becomes necrotic, an open wound will develop and the skin will appear as though it has been eaten. This open wound will become increasingly large in size as the bacteria continue to multiply and spread. This will result in a large defect and, if the infection gets into the bloodstream, sepsis, organ failure and death.
It is therefore essential that doctors recognise a patient has necrotising fasciitis in the early stages of infection. If treatment is not provided quickly, a patient will become critically unwell and may even die from the infection. This can be prevented with a quick diagnosis and urgent surgical debridement.
If medical professionals in the UK fail to diagnose and treat necrotising fasciitis in a timely fashion, there could be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim.