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Gangrene & Osteomyelitis Cited in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Nursing Home
A nursing home in Illinois is a defendant in a wrongful death suit. One of their patients fell and broke his hip. According to the suit, the nursing home did not follow proper procedures and this led to his fall.
After the fall, the patient was allowed to lie in bed without proper turning, according to the lawsuit, and developed a bed sore. The bed sore developed a gangrene infection and osteomyelitis and the patient passed away. The suit alleges that the many prior medical conditions of the patient, including previous strokes, hypertension, diabetes and dementia required that special care be administered to the patient but this was not done.
What is a Bedsore
A bed sore is a condition that develops when, due to lack of mobility, constant pressure is placed on a part of the body. The constant pressure cuts off the circulation and deprives the area of oxygen. The skin and tissue begin to die and wear away, revealing internal parts of the body.
Bed sores progress gradually after first appearing. They fall into one of four categories based on their severity.
- Stage I. The initial stage and least severe, stage one bed sores are not yet open wounds. The skin is red and may be swollen. It can also be warm and hard to the touch. Later, the red color may deepen into a purple hue.
- Stage II. The skin has broken open and infection is now an elevated risk. Abrasions may appear, as may blisters. The outer layers of skin are dead and peeling back.
- Stage III. There is now a definite wound in the shape of a shallow crater. The skin has completely died and worn away at the location, revealing damaged tissue underneath. The infection risk is high now.
- Stage IV. The most severe stage of bed sore, stage IV means the tissue underneath the skin has also died and worn away. The muscle and bone underneath are now exposed. The infection risk is extreme, and this is when osteomyelitis is at risk of occurring. A stage IV bed sore is a life-threatening condition.
Immobile patients are at severe risk of bed sores and careful steps must be taken to assure that they do not develop. Paralyzed patients will not be able to move on their own, or can move only with great difficulty. Comatose patients do not toss and turn like normal, healthy people when they sleep. They, too, must be turned frequently to relieve pressure on various parts of the body. Sick patients, or patients who lack energy can also be at risk if they are unable to move themselves frequently.
Bed Sore Treatment
Prevention is always better than cure, but if a bed sore develops it can be treated. The sooner it is caught, the easier it is to heal.
Treatment will vary based on factors like the severity of the bed sore. Debridement, which is the removal of dead tissue, may be necessary for any bed sore past stage I. A wound vac, which applies suction to a wound and helps to prevent infection, is also a tool to treat bedsores. Severe bed sores may require reconstructive surgery and, in the worst cases, amputation.
A qualified physician will always make the final decision as to which forms of treatment are appropriate in a given case.
What is Gangrene?
Gangrene is the death of tissue due to lack of blood flow and infection. Bed sores are always at risk of getting infected, and this puts the life of the patient at risk.
What is Osteomyelitis?
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. This can happen in more than one way, but one common condition that can lead to osteomyelitis is a bed sore. In its more advanced stages, a bed sore can expose bone to the open air. This can damage and infect the bone.
Osteomyelitis was once incurable, however, with modern medicine it can be successfully treated. This usually requires surgery to take out the part of the bone that has died.
The Importance of Caregivers
Bed sores are a common problem in America. Each year, wound care costs exceed $1 billion and are sometimes much higher than that. Most bed sores are preventable, but this often requires the dedicated care of professionals.
There are devices which can relieve the pressure on the parts of the body that bear weight. Special heel boots, for example, or mattresses designed to relieve pressure are important tools in fighting the formation of bed sores. In addition, caregivers must turn patients who are unable to do so on their own several times a day. Patients in wheelchairs will require "off-loading" to give temporary relief to areas of the body that have been cut off from blood flow.
If caregivers fail to provide proper care, they can be held liable under the law. If a plaintiff can demonstrate that the caregiver had a duty to provide care, failed to do so and that failing to do so led to a bed sore or even death, juries may award large settlements.