Medical Malpractice for Failure to Diagnose Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is an infection in a joint which, if not caught and treated right away, can have devastating consequences. When a patient presents with a fever and swollen, red, painful joints, septic arthritis should be one of the first conditions that comes to mind. Even if the medical professional does not think it could septic arthritis, he or she must first eliminate it by performing arthrocentesis.

The Mayo Clinic reports that septic arthritis can be caused by germs that travel through your bloodstream from another part of your body, or it can occur when a penetrating injury delivers germs directly into the joint. The National Library of Medicine reports that septic arthritis is also called infectious arthritis, with symptoms such as:

  • Intense pain at the joint
  • Joint redness and swelling
  • Chills and fever
  • Inability to move the area with the infected joint

What happens if the condition is allowed to worsen?

If septic arthritis is not diagnosed and treated immediately, the joint can deteriorate and suffer permanent damage which can lead to the person’s inability to use the affected arm or leg, and in some cases can lead to amputation of the limb.

Nursing homes should be on the lookout

There are about 20,000 cases of septic arthritis in the U.S. each year, and about 45% of patients diagnosed with the conditioner are older than 65. Given that so many patients are older, septic arthritis should be on the radar of nursing home staff. This is because, per the Mayo Clinic, the condition is most likely to affect those with:

  • Existing joint problems
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (especially if it is already being treated with medications)
  • Joint trauma
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Skin fragility (caused by open wounds, eczema, psoriasis, or other conditions)

Understand that septic arthritis can also develop if a patient is diagnosed with a staph infection. Staph infections can be passed from patient to patient, and from patient to caregiver, if proper sterilization and cleanliness protocols are ignored.

Failure to diagnose septic arthritis is medical negligence

Failure to diagnose and other diagnostic errors are the most common causes of medical malpractice lawsuits. We trust doctors with their extensive training and experience to be able to accurately identify what is wrong and administer the appropriate treatment. When their failure to diagnose a disease such as septic arthritis leads to further injury like the loss of the use of a limb, or even amputation, an injured patient may have grounds to take legal action and recover compensation for their injuries.

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