When a nursing home resident suffers from an injury, for example, a cut or bruise sustained during an accidental fall, or develops an open wound, such as a bedsore or a diabetic ulcer, it is the responsibility of nursing home staff to immediately treat the wound upon discovery and take steps to prevent such wounds from occurring in the future. When a wound is left open and exposed to the environment, there is a high likelihood that bacteria, viruses, or foreign materials will enter and cause an infection in the wound. Infections can lead to life-threatening complications, such as, gangrene, blood poisoning (sepsis), cellulitis, osteomyelitis or tooth or gum infections that extend down into the head and neck. Here are a few examples:
Gangrene exists when tissue dies, either from a lack of blood flow or from an infection, and most frequently occurs in the extremities. There are two main types of gangrene, classified as either “dry” or “wet,” indicative of the appearance of the gangrene. Dry gangrene has a shriveled, purple-blue to brown appearance and is slow to develop because it is often due to the gradual effects of an arterial occlusion or blood vessel disease such as atherosclerosis. Wet gangrene commonly occurs in naturally moist tissues, and in bedsores, which result from too much moisture against the skin.
Sepsis occurs when an infection spreads to the bloodstream. Effectively, immune response chemicals in the blood cause systemic inflammation in the body, instead of promoting healing. The inflammation cascades through the body, causing septic shock as various organ systems shut down. Septic shock causes a drop in blood pressure, which can be fatal.
Cellulitis results when an infection moves to the skin layers. Characterized by localized swollen, red patches of infected skin, which is hot to the touch and is very sensitive, cellulitis can affect the epidermal layer (the skin’s surface), the dermis (the skin’s deeper layers) or both, and can even spread to the bloodstream.
Osteomyelitis occurs when an infection spreads to the bone tissue. Transmission is usually through the blood, but the infection could also reach the bone from a penetrating trauma (such as a complete fracture) or from contiguous areas of infection (for instance a cellulitis could transfer from the skin to the bone tissue). Infected bone must be physically removed to prevent further spread of the infection.
Odontogenic (tooth and surrounding tissue) and periodontal (gum) infections can result from untreated dental cavities. Dental hygiene is often overlooked in nursing homes, and residents can have untreated tooth decay for extended periods of time before anyone notices a problem.
If you have a loved one who has developed a complication due to an untreated infection and would like to discuss the matter, please do not hesitate to contact the Rooth Law Firm online or by phone at (800) 598-4348.