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Gentamicin Toxicity

Gentamicin is a member of the aminoglycoside group of antibiotics. It is of particular value in the treatment of serious and life-threatening infections.

Side-effects of gentamicin

However, Gentamicin does have two main side-effects:

1. Nephrotoxicity: is when the body is exposed to a drug or toxin that in turn damages the kidneys. This can reduce kidney function, making it difficult for your body to remove urine and other waste products. It is continues in the long-term, permanent kidney problems will ensue, leading to acute kidney failure.

2. Ototoxicity: is when the body is exposed to a drug or toxin that damages the inner ear. More specifically, damage will be done to the vestibulo-cochlear nerve which transports balance and hearing information from the inner ear to the brain, therefore leading to hearing loss, balance problems and speech loss.

Because gentamicin regularly causes these side-effects, extreme care is necessary when the drug is administered. It is worth noting that gentamicin cannot be absorbed orally, so it will normally be administered intravenously or, very rarely, intramuscularly.

Monitoring patients taking gentamicin

These side-effects are directly related to the blood gentamicin level so a patient will require regular monitoring and appropriate adjustment of the dose to ensure that dangerous toxic levels do not occur.

In order to do this, medical professionals must take regular blood tests from the patient. One test should be performed around 30 to 60 minutes after a dose has been administered to measure the “peak” gentamicin level. Another test should be performed 18-24 hours after the previous dose to measure the “trough” blood level. If the trough level is found to be too high, the next dose of the drug should be delayed until gentamicin levels in the blood have fallen.

Furthermore, medical professionals should be especially cautious of patients in whom renal function is already impaired or likely to decline. The size of the patient is also important, as this will determine how gentamicin affects the body. In each case, the dose and frequency of administration must be reduced if a patient is thought to be at risk of developing dangerous levels of gentamicin in their blood – known as gentamicin toxicity.

Is gentamicin toxicity negligent?

Although gentamicin is an important antibiotic for the treatment of serious infections, its use requires great care if the complications of nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity are to be avoided.

When these troubling side-effects do occur, it is usually due to a lack of knowledge on the part of medical professionals. Many do not appreciate that the administration of the next dose of gentamicin depends upon confirmation that the trough level has indeed fallen to a safe level. It is also not often appreciated that kidney function is likely to decline during the course of any severe infection, particularly those for which the use of gentamicin is particularly appropriate.

Therefore if an episode of acute kidney failure or hearing damage does occur as the result of gentamicin toxicity, it is very likely this is the consequence of an unacceptably poor standard of care.

If this has happened to you or your loved, do not delay in speaking to a medical negligence solicitor about the medical care you received, as you could be entitled to compensation.

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