Necrotizing Fasciitis: Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Necrotizing fasciitis is a progressive, rapidly spreading, inflammatory infection located in the deep fascia. These infections can be difficult to recognize in their early stages if the treating physician is not exercising proper diligence in evaluating the patient’s symptoms. Once the disease begins to progress, necrotizing fasciitis requires aggressive surgical treatment, often leading to amputation and sometimes death. Like all medical negligence cases, those involving necrotizing fasciitis are highly complex in nature and replete with opportunities for negligent parties to avoid taking responsibility. We diligently discover the important facts, retain world-class expert witnesses and methodically prepare necrotizing fasciitis cases for trial in a way that maximizes the opportunity for a verdict that provides justice for our client.
More about necrotizing fasciitis…
Necrotizing soft tissue infection is a rare but very severe type of bacterial infection that can destroy the muscles, skin and underlying tissue. Many different types of bacteria can cause this type of infection, including streptococcus pyogenes, a severe and usually deadly form of necrotizing soft tissue infection sometimes called “flesh-eating bacteria.”
Cases in which the precipitating event is known are classified as secondary necrotizing fasciitis. Bacterial invasion may result from blunt trauma with contusion, abrasions, penetrating injury (e.g., laceration, intravenous, drug abuse and surgical procedures), childbirth or burns, i.e., anything that causes a break in the skin. Idiopathic necrotizing fasciitis, however, occurs in the absence of a known or identifiable etiologic factor, which may make the diagnosis more challenging. The most recent necrotizing fasciitis case handled by Davis Adams, which was resolved favorably for our client, involved idiopathic necrotizing fasciitis.
When necrotizing fasciitis sets in, the bacteria begins to grow and release harmful substances (toxins) that:
- directly kill tissue
- interfere with the blood flow to the tissue
- break down materials in the tissue, which rapidly spreads the bacteria, leading to widespread effects such as shock
Necrotizing Fasciitis Symptoms
Early symptoms (usually within 24 hours):
- usually a minor trauma or other skin opening has occurred (the wound does not necessarily appear infected)
- some pain in the general area of the injury is present, but not necessarily at the site of the injury but in the same region or limb of the body
- the pain is usually disproportionate to the injury and may start as something akin to a muscle pull, but becomes more and more painful
- flu like symptoms begin to occur, such as diarrhea, nausea, fever, confusion, dizziness, weakness and general malaise
The biggest symptom is all of these symptoms combined. In general you will probably feel worse than you have ever felt and not understand why.
Advanced symptoms (usually within 3–4 days):
- the limb, or area of body experiencing pain begins to swell, and may show a purplish rash
- the limb may begin to have large, dark marks, that will become blisters filled with blackish fluid
- the wound may actually begin to appear necrotic with a bluish, white or dark, mottled, flaky appearance
Critical symptoms (usually within 4–5 days):
- blood pressure will drop severely
- the body begins to go into septic shock from the toxins the bacteria are giving off
- unconsciousness will occur as the body becomes too weak to fight off this infection
How the skin and tissue look can help the doctor diagnose a necrotizing soft tissue infection. Often a patient will be diagnosed in the operating room by a surgeon. Imaging tests, such as CT scans, are sometimes helpful, as are tests performed on blood, fluids or tissue from the infected area.
Powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics must be given immediately through a vein (IV). Surgery is required to open and drain infected areas and remove dead tissue. Sometimes donor immunoglobulins (antibodies) are given by vein to help fight the infection. Skin grafts may be needed after the infection goes away. If an arm or leg infection cannot be controlled, amputation of the limb may be considered. If the bacteria is determined to be an oxygen-avoiding organism (anaerobe), the patient may receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This involves placing the patient in a chamber that delivers 100% oxygen at high pressure.
A patients prognosis following a necrotizing fasciitis diagnosis depends on a number of factors, including:
- how fast the diagnosis was obtained
- the type of bacteria causing the infection
- how quickly the infection spreads
- how well the antibiotics work
Scarring and deformity are common with this type of disease. The death rate is high, even with aggressive treatment and powerful antibiotics. Untreated, the infection spreads and causes death.
Necrotizing Fasciitis Complications
Complications from necrotizing fasciitis may include:
- local spread of infection, progressive tissue damage
- systemic spread of infection, sepsis, shock
- scarring and disfigurement
- functional loss of an arm or leg
If you, your child or a loved one have suffered as a result of necrotizing fasciitis, we can obtain the necessary medical records and have an expert physician review the file free of charge to determine whether a doctor or other healthcare provider was negligent.
Davis Adams, LLC only represents medical malpractice victims.
$40 million in verdicts and settlements validates our commitment to doing one thing—medical malpractice litigation—and doing it well. We don’t claim to be a jack of all legal trades. In fact, to our knowledge, Davis Adams is the only law firm in Georgia that only represents victims of medical negligence. It’s all we do. And while that fact alone does not necessarily make us better than every other lawyer handling medical malpractice cases, it does mean that our focus is laser sharp on this area of the law. We are immersed in medical litigation every day, quickly spotting trends as they develop, pioneering new legal strategies and tactics to combat the ever changing insurance defense industry and constantly discussing our clients’ cases with leading medical experts around the country. So instead of dividing our time and energy between auto accidents, business disputes and the occasional medical case, we are constantly honing our skills as medical malpractice attorneys.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Davis Adams can help, whether you are located in the Atlanta area or any other part of Georgia.
Davis Adams has two offices: one overlooking downtown Atlanta from the 33rd floor of Centennial Tower, and the other a few miles east in Decatur, Ga.—but our reach is statewide. We routinely represent clients in Macon, Savannah, Columbus, Albany and other cities from Valdosta to Dalton. Wherever you reside in Georgia, when selecting a medical malpractice attorney, we believe that choosing an expert in medical negligence cases is more important that simply hiring the closest attorney. As a client, you have one opportunity to obtain justice, and we are always honored when that chance it entrusted to us.
What is my medical malpractice case worth?
The vast majority of prospective clients we meet contact us reluctantly. Contrary to the media’s unflattering portrayal of some who file lawsuits, most of our clients are not eager to sue hospitals or doctors, and they understand that money is almost always a poor substitute for one’s health lost as result of a medical error. But the only remedy available through the civil justice system is financial compensation; it’s the only form of “justice” the law allows under these circumstances. After the discovery process has been completed and we have dissected our findings, as we prepare a case for mediation or trial we provide our client with guidance as to the fair value of his or her case. The monetary value of a case depends on the level of injury our client suffers. Injuries take many forms, including:
- Economic damages, including:
- Past medical bills
- Future/projected medical expenses, including life-care plans
- Past lost income
- Future lost income
- Non-economic damages, including:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental or emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (companionship)
- The “full value” of a life (in cases involving death as a result of a medical error)
When Davis Adams agrees to represent a medical malpractice victim, we have one simple demand of the defendants: that our client is paid fairly for what he or she has endured. We cannot, and will not, accept anything less than the full measure of justice to which our client is entitled. Often cases are settled at mediation, which allows our client to avoid the risk of trial and to end their case with some measure of certainty. Other times, mediation is unsuccessful, and we proceed to trial and ask a jury to determine our client’s compensation. More than half of our $40 million in recovered funds is the result of trial verdicts, meaning that the attorneys hired to defend doctors and hospitals know that we are fully prepared to meet them in a courtroom if the case cannot otherwise be resolved to our clients’ satisfaction.
Our philosophy: fewer cases, more personal attention, better results.
Jess Davis and Chad Adams decline to handle the vast majority of cases presented to their firm. And while it may seem counterintuitive to turn down business, Davis Adams is committed to doing outstanding, hands-on work for a limited number of catastrophically injured clients instead of employing a team of less experienced associate attorneys to churn through a high volume workload. We simply refuse to become one of those law firms at which the experienced trial lawyers only get involved in the later stages of the case, if at all. From day one, our clients have the collective time, attention, energy, and experience of the seasoned medical malpractice attorneys who will be handling their case at trial, which translates to better representation, and better financial recoveries. From time to time other lawyers will ask, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to hire some young associate attorneys to handle the unimportant parts of your cases?” That question represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how medical malpractice cases are won or lost, and emphasizes the importance of hiring an experienced medical negligence attorney. There are no unimportant tasks in the cases we handle; victory is always in the details and is never achieved at the maximum level without bringing to bear the full weight of our firm’s substantial medical negligence experience, dogged determination and blatant refusal to settle for less than our clients deserve.
We do not accept payment unless our client recovers money.
Davis Adams represents medical malpractice victims on a contingency basis, which means that if we do not recover money for our clients, we will not accept payment for our services. Additionally, our contingency fee, while reflective of our firm’s quality and success, is less than the 50% fee charged by some firms. We simply are not comfortable with earning a fee in a case that is equal to the recovery of our injured client, and therefore have refused to increase our fee.