patient-protection_diagnosis-negligenceWe are all at risk of developing infections from time to time and the illness they occasionally cause is an unavoidable fact of life.

However, when we’re admitted to hospital, the risk of developing an infection is much higher, whether that’s because we’re in close proximity to many other people or because we’re undergoing some sort of invasive operation.  In spite of all proper precautions being taken, some patients will unfortunately develop infection while in hospital or shortly after being discharged.

Many infections resolve on their own and most will be cured with a short course of antibiotics.  However, if an aggressive infection is not recognised and treated early and appropriately, the consequences can be disastrous.

If either you or a family member have suffered complications of mismanaged infection, contact us and we can discuss making a claim for compensation.

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Common issues in managing infection

Any infection can potentially progress to sepsis, where the body’s immune system gets out of control.  This can lead to septic shock, which occurs when the body reduces blood supply to vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and even the brain.  It can lead to reduced blood supply to limbs so that amputation is required.  It can lead to brain damage and death.  Approximately 31,000 people die each year from sepsis in the UK.

Of course, the vast majority of infections are treated successfully with antibiotics, with little or no lasting effect.  However, it must be remembered that even an apparently minor infection, if mismanaged, can progress to something very much more serious.

Failure to recognise post-surgical infection

During any type of surgery, the patient is at risk of surgery. Sometimes they will be given antibiotics before or during surgery, in order to reduce this risk, although this is not always appropriate.

However, all medical professionals should be on high alert for infection after surgery and be ready to react promptly to signs such as fever, chills, nausea, unexpected pain and swelling.

Joint Replacement

In joint replacement surgery, there might be bacteria deep inside the joint.  At the very least, this is likely to need an operation to wash-out the joint.  In some cases, the artificial joint will have to be removed and left out for weeks or months while the infection is treated, before then being replaced.

Abdominal surgery

In abdominal surgery, whether it be the removal of an appendix, major bowel surgery or keyhole gynaecological surgery, other organs, vessels and structures can be easily damaged.  Many of these contain large quantities of bacteria that can lead to widespread infection of the inner abdominal wall, a condition known as peritonitis.  This is usually extremely painful and the infection, if left untreated, can lead to sepsis and septicaemia.  As well as aggressive antibiotics to treat the infection, the patient will probably need emergency surgery to repair the damage caused in the first operation.

Heart infections from dental procedures

Some patients, such as those with artificial heart valves or irregular blood flow in their heart, can be at particularly high risk of developing infections of their heart following even simple dental procedures.  Bacteria can enter the bloodstream though the mouth and cause infection in the tissues of the heart, known as endocarditis.  This can have devastating consequences, particularly if not recognised and treated promptly.  Patients at risk of this will usually be given antibiotics by their dentist before most procedures, to minimize this risk.

Infections in diabetic patients

Patients with advanced or poorly controlled diabetes often have impaired blood circulation to their feet.  This means that they can easily sustain minor damage to skin of their toes and feet.  While these injuries might not be particularly significant in themselves, the lack of good circulation means that they can easily become infected.  Once infection becomes established in the foot of a diabetic patient, there is a risk of their developing gangrene, requiring amputation of their toes, their foot or, if the condition is left a little longer, an entire leg.

If you or someone in your family has suffered complications of mismanaged infection, then contact us and let us see if we can help you.