Failure to Diagnose an Infection

Washington, D.C. Medical Malpractice Lawyers Handling Undiagnosed Infection Claims

Protecting people who have suffered because of an undiagnosed/untreated infection

One of the most serious risks for patients in hospitals is infection. People with compromised immune systems or who are recovering after a surgery can become dangerously ill if an infection is left undiagnosed and untreated. At Paulson & Nace, PLLC, we help protect patients who have developed an infection in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities in Washington, D.C. For more than 40 years, our family of skilled medical malpractice lawyers has helped families just like yours when an act of negligence harmed a loved one.

Why infections must be treated quickly

When infections are left to their own devices, they can quickly lead to serious complications. In the worst cases, an untreated infection can lead to additional surgeries, the loss of a limb or permanent brain damage. Certain maternal or neonatal infections can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry, and others could lead to the wrongful death of the patient.

All infections require medication to treat, which means additional time in the hospital, and additional medical expenses, for the patients. Paulson & Nace believes that doctors, nurses and hospital staff who fail to monitor their patients efficiently or effectively, or fail to diagnose the signs of an infection in a timely manner, should be held accountable for their mistakes. Our dedicated team of trial attorneys has secured millions of dollars for our medical malpractice clients, money that helps them protect their families and their futures.

What are superbugs in hospitals?

Not all patient infections are preventable by simply maintaining a sterile environment. It also takes responsible treatment when patients seek care for viruses and other bacterial infections. Superbugs are the result of medication errors such as overuse and misuse of antibiotics. These are lifesaving medications for most people but can cause the very germs they are intended to kill, to become drug-resistant and thrive when taken too often or not as prescribed.

When it comes to superbugs in hospitals, the most prevalent group of resistant bacteria is known as ESKAPE, which includes:

  • Enterococcus faecium. This bacterium is responsible for causing endocarditis, urinary tract infections, prostatitis, and intra-abdominal infection.
  • Staphylococcus aureus. Better known as a staph infection, patients can experience bloodstream, bone, lung, and heart infections.
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae. These bacteria live in the intestines, and can exit the body through feces. If they spread, they can affect multiple organs, including the brain, liver, and lungs.
  • Acinetobacter baumannii. This bacterium is known for causing respiratory infections and can live on surfaces for up to a month. It is very commonly carried on the skin of healthcare workers making it easy to infect other patients.
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Found in soil and water, these bacteria can lead to blood and lung infections if they are left unfound and untreated. Patients on ventilators, with open wounds, and with catheters are most at risk for exposure. Per the CDC, “These bacteria are constantly finding new ways to avoid the effects of the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause.”
  • Enterobacter species. This is yet another serious bacterium that causes a host of infections including surgical site infections, intravascular catheter infections, respiratory, and urinary tract infections. It began making its way around Washington, D.C. hospitals in 2016, infecting a little more than 5% of patients.
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Hospital acquired infections (hais) put thousands of people at risk

Certain portions of the population – the very young, the elderly, burn victims, those with immune disorders and those recovering from surgeries – are at an increased threat of developing a hospital acquired infection, or HAI. The Centers for Disease Control places the risk of an HAI at 1 in 31 patients. The most likely HAIs include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Clostridium difficile, or C. diff infections
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Urinary tract infections associated with catheters
  • Bloodstream infections, or sepsis, from central lines
  • Surgical site infections

At Paulson & Nace, we know how dangerous an infection can be if left untreated. We use only authoritative sources to help create a case for medical negligence against healthcare providers and institutions whose actions or inactions led to your loved one developing an infection that put his or her health and life at needless risk.

How do D.C. hopsitals prevent the spread of infections to patients?

In any hospital setting protocols are created and should be followed to the letter to prevent the spread of infection to, and among, patients. There are general steps to follow and there may be special procedures implemented based on the needs of a particular category of patient. For example, the risk of serious infections for burn and transplant patients increases because of their highly compromised immune systems.

In all cases, special attention should be paid to:

  • Room ventilation. Rotating clean air into rooms is important to maintaining a healthier environment by filtering out infectious particles.
  • Cleaning and decontamination. Doctors, nurses, maintenance staff, and visitors have the ability to track contaminated material all over hospitals just by walking in and out of rooms and through hallways, making it exceedingly important to disinfect floors, surfaces, bedding, equipment, medical devices, and even sometimes the air.
  • Protective clothing. Items worn near wounds or incisions must be kept sterile and be changed on a regular basis. The goal is to keep open skin clean to prevent an infection from entering the body during the healing process.

Basic infection control procedures that should be followed regardless of the patient’s risk level include:

  • Frequent hand washing. At a minimum, washing hands should be routine before touching a patient or conducting any procedure, anytime there has been a risk of body fluid exposure, and after touching a patient or his/her surroundings.
  • Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Gloves, surgical gowns, masks, eye and face protection, shoe and head coverings should all be worn when the circumstances dictate. For example, shoe and head coverings tend to only be necessary during surgical procedures or while in highly contagious environments while gloves are recommended anytime a sterile procedure is performed.
  • Equipment and supply disposal. Reusable equipment and textiles must be properly sterilized between uses and medical waste must be handled and disposed of in compliance with infectious disease protocols.

Failure to follow these protocols can lead to spreading infections, and hospitals may be held accountable for their role in any related injuries, illnesses, or deaths.

Compassionate care for victims of an undiagnosed infection

The longer an infection goes untreated, the greater the risk to the patient. Paulson & Nace, PLLC, protects the rights of victims throughout Washington, D.C. To meet with a skilled malpractice attorney and discuss the details of your case, please call 202.463.1999 or fill out our contact form.