It seems so, according to an Arkansas lawyer. Michael Smith said: “There are classic symptoms that are specifically unique to necrotising fasciitis.
“Unfortunately, in the early stages of it developing, the signs may also be mistaken for cellulitis. That is a deadly mistake. The way to differentiate between the two diseases is through tests. This is vitally important if the patient has a compromised immune system. In other words, test first, ask questions later and do it fast if there is even the slightest hint of the possibility of necrotising fasciitis.”
The reason he brought this up was to highlight the fact that misdiagnosis can lead to malpractice suits being served on doctors. He points to a recent case of a 51 year old woman who was suspected of having a brain tumour and abdominal tumour.
After surgery on her abdomen the lady complained of pain in the nether regions, particular around the stitches. The doctor who examined her diagnosed cellulitis, and so was given antibiotics.
However after just one day of treatment the woman complained of severe pain, so much so that she ended up having morphine to control the pain. The vaginal area was also severely swollen.
The doctor realised his mistake and diagnosed necrotising fasciitis, and ordered an operation to remove the problematic tissue. Unfortunately not all of it was removed; the infection moved to her leg, which unfortunately had to be amputated in order to save her life.
Lawyer, Michael Smith said: “The patient filed a medical malpractice lawsuit indicating the doctor had not taken the time and care to order tests in the first instance of the presence of an infection; something that would have been the accepted medical standard.
“The case was eventually settled in favour of the patient. There was a valuable lesson to be learned there: that even though it is possible for a person in the early stages of necrotising fasciitis to show signs that may mimic cellulitis, it is crucial to run diagnostic tests and find out what you’re dealing with.”
Mr. Smith hope doctors will take more care in future when diagnosing such debilitating infections.