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Medical Negligence
Infected Pressure Sores

Infected Pressure Sores

If you developed a pressure sore in hospital and it became infected, you could be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Alternatively, if this happened to your loved one, you could be entitled to pursue a claim on behalf of their estate.

For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today.

What is a pressure sore?

A pressure sore is when the tissue breaks down due to unrelieved pressure.

For example, if a hospital patient is rendered immobile and can only lie on their back, their body weight will compress certain areas of their body. These areas are known as pressure points, and in the case of someone who is lying down, will include the back of the head, shoulders, buttocks, elbows and heels.

When pressure is placed upon the tissue, the supply of blood to that area will be disrupted. Blood carries oxygen and removes waste products from the tissue. Therefore if there is a lack of blood supply, it means there will also be a lack of oxygen and a build-up of waste products.

If this pressure persists without being relieved, the lack of oxygen/build-up of waste products will cause the tissue to break down. This will lead to a wound known as a pressure sore. The longer compression continues, the more the tissue will break down, resulting in an increasingly large wound.

In the early stages of a pressure sore, the skin may just appear discoloured, turning dark red in colour. This is called a grade one pressure sore, and if it is treated at this stage it may not deteriorate any further. In the final stages of a pressure sore, there will be an open wound with black necrotic (dead) skin. This is called a grade four pressure sore and can seriously compromise a person's health.

Pressure sores in hospital

Pressure sores are most common amongst hospital patients and nursing home residents. There are various reasons for this:

Firstly, many hospital/residential home patients are elderly and in poor health. Both these factors adversely affect the body's circulation, meaning there is already a poor blood supply to the tissue.

Secondly, many hospital/residential home patients are immobile, either due to old age, surgery or ill health. This means they are often stuck in one position, being unable to move freely for themselves. Consequently the same areas of tissue are placed under constant pressure.

Turning a patient to prevent pressure sores

It is well known that hospital/residential home patients face an increased risk of pressure sores. Because of this, healthcare professionals have devised a pressure sore risk assessment that should be undertaken within six hours of a patient being admitted to hospital.

If a patient is thought to be at risk, measures must be implemented to minimise the chances of a patient suffering a pressure sore. One of the most important measures is to turn a patient regularly. As long as it is viable, a patient should be moved into a different position every four hours.

Additionally, the patient's skin should be regularly inspected. If any sign of tissue break down can be seen, treatment should be put in place to prevent further deterioration. For instance, the wound may be dressed and a pressure relieving mattress used.

Getting a pressure sore in hospital

Despite these guidelines being in place, hospital/residential home patients do develop pressure sore. Sometimes this will be unavoidable as the patient's condition is such that little more could be done to prevent a sore occurring.

However, on other occasions a pressure sore will arise because healthcare professionals did not provide a reasonable standard of care. Most commonly, healthcare professionals will have failed to turn a patient at regular intervals, leaving them lying or sitting in the same position for hours at a time.

If a patient develops a pressure sore because of substandard medical care, there may be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim. If this has happened to you or your loved one, you should speak to a solicitor about your options as you may be able to take legal action. This is particularly true if the sore became infected and this was not treated, as explored below.

Pressure sore infected with hospital bug

If a patient does develop a pressure sore in hospital and it is not detected in the early stages, the tissue will break down further and the wound will become increasingly large in size. This will make the patient extremely vulnerable to infection, as they have a large exposed wound in a hospital environment, where infection can easily spread from one patient to the next.

A pressure sore may become infected with any sort of bacterial infection. Often this will be a hospital superbug which is rife in a hospital environment, such as MRSA or necrotising fasciitis. Whatever the type of infection, it will be very serious for the patient who may already have a compromised immune system due to ill health or old age.

Sepsis from infected pressure sores

If a pressure sore does become infected, it is absolutely vital that it is recognised and treated without delay. Otherwise the infection could reach the bloodstream, leading to a condition called sepsis. Sepsis is when an infection travels across the body in the blood, prompting the immune system to go into overdrive, causing widespread inflammation and clotting. This is very concerning as it can result in multi-system organ failure something which can be fatal.

Infected pressure sore medical negligence

A pressure sore is a 'never event'. This means that it is a preventable patient safety incident that should not occur in a medical environment. Therefore if a patient develops a pressure sore in a healthcare environment, it is possible that there has been an unacceptable standard of care. This in itself may be sufficient grounds for a medical negligence claim.

Should the pressure sore remain undiagnosed and untreated, resulting in an infection, there will be a breach of duty on the part of the healthcare professionals. Again, it is likely that this will result in a successful medical negligence claim.

Want to know more?

To find out more about claiming compensation for a pressure sore, or an infected pressure sore, please contact us at Glynns Solicitors today.

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