Necrotising fasciitis is an aggressive bacterial infection. If not treated in time it can be fatal. In this article we look at necrotising fasciitis deaths in more detail, explaining why necrotising fasciitis fatalities happen and whether there is anything that can be done to prevent it.
Why is necrotising fasciitis fatal?
Necrotising fasciitis happens when a certain type of bacteria get into the body’s soft tissue through a break in the skin. Once inside they begin to reproduce at a rapid rate. As they do this, they release a toxin that causes the tissue to break down and become necrotic (die). The skin will turn dark red and purple in colour, and an open wound will appear. This wound will grow in size as the bacteria continue to reproduce.
Tissue necrosis will happen very quickly – it is often a matter of hours after the bacteria have first entered the body. Once the tissue dies a patient will become extremely unwell. If left untreated, the wound will grow in size, resulting in a horrific defect. As the infection become more and more advanced, a patient’s condition will rapidly deteriorate. Within days the infection may reach the bloodstream, after which the situation will be critical.
When an infection spreads to the bloodstream, a patient is said to have sepsis. This causes the body’s immune system of overreact, leading to clots and inflammation across the body. This will compromise the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body, causing a patient’s blood pressure will drop to a dangerously low level. This is called septic shock. Septic shock can quickly lead to organ failure and ultimately death.
Necrotising fasciitis – a medical emergency
This course of events can unfold over a very short space of time. Indeed, those who die from necrotising fasciitis often only reported symptoms a few days previously. Because of the speed at which a patient can become critically unwell, it is absolutely vital that medical professionals recognise and treat the condition as quickly as possible.
Although necrotising fasciitis is rare, diagnosing the condition should not be beyond the ability of medical professionals in the UK. Even if a medical practitioner has not come across the infection during the course of their career, he/she should have enough medical knowledge to understand that a serious infection is present. Further tests should be ordered as a matter of urgency, and this should ensure that a firm diagnosis is obtained – before it is too late.
If medical professionals fail to diagnose necrotising fasciitis in a timely fashion, the level of care provided will be considered substandard. If this results in an unnecessary fatality, the bereaved family will be entitled to pursue a claim against the medical practitioner or hospital responsible.