Necrotising fasciitis is a rare but life-threatening infection. In this article we explore necrotising fasciitis in more detail, explaining what causes it and how the condition should be treated.
What is necrotising fasciitis?
Necrotising fasciitis is a bacterial infection that affects the deep layers of tissue and the fascia (connective tissue). It is caused by certain types of bacteria, most commonly the Group A Streptococcus bacteria. When necrotising fasciitis occurs in the male genital area, it is called Fournier’s Gangrene. For necrotising fasciitis to develop, the bacteria must get into the body via a break in the skin. This can be as small as a pinprick.
What happens when someone gets necrotising fasciitis?
If the bacteria that cause necrotising fasciitis get into the body, they will begin to reproduce at a rapid rate. When they reproduce they release a poisonous chemical that causes the tissue to break down, disrupting the blood supply.
Blood carries oxygen, so without a sufficient blood supply the tissue will soon become deficient in oxygen. This is called ischaemia and will cause the tissue to break down even further. Eventually the tissue will suffer so much damage that it actually dies, which in medical terms is called tissue necrosis.
When the tissue becomes necrotic it will become black in colour and an open wound will develop. Necrotic tissue cannot be saved and will have to be surgically removed.
Treating necrotising fasciitis
Necrotising fasciitis must be treated as a matter of urgency. Anyone with the infection must be started on intravenous antibiotics immediately as this will help to kill the bacteria. All the necrotic tissue must then be surgically removed as this is the only way to rid the body of the infection. If all the necrotic tissue is not excised, the bacteria will continue to spread across the body. The bacteria spread very quickly, so if treatment is not provided urgently, the area of necrotic tissue will become increasingly large in size.
Necrotising fasciitis claims
Despite being a relatively rare condition, necrotising fasciitis has a high medico-legal profile. This is because medical professionals often fail to diagnose the infection in the early stages, even though a patient has sought medical attention for their symptoms. Other times medical professionals will fail to provide emergency treatment, not appreciating the severity of the situation.
If there is a failure to diagnose and/or treat necrotising fasciitis in a timely fashion and this causes a patient unnecessary pain and suffering, there will be grounds for a compensation claim. If this is something to have affected you or your loved one, you need to speak to a solicitor today.