When the blood supply to part of the body is interrupted, gangrene is the common result.
The circulatory system provides blood to all parts of the body, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells and removing carbon dioxide and waste products. When something goes amiss and blood flow is cut off for a substantial period, tissues begin to decay and die. This process is called gangrene.
Gangrene is not itself an infection. However, as cells die, they can rupture, releasing both nutrients and wastes. This slurry can become a fertile breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, molds, and other infectious agents.
It starts with a sore
Gangrene can start with a sore that does not heal. This can be a simple cut, bruise, or scrape. In the classic example, the origin point is usually a pressure wound such as a bedsore.
The earliest symptom of gangrene is typically a change in skin color. The area first becomes red or purplish, much like a bruise. If not treated, the flesh becomes brown and may even turn black. Patients may experience intense pain, or numbness and no pain at all. The lack of pain is more alarming, because it may signify that nerve cells are already dead. In the last stages, the affected area may appear blistered, and there may be a bad odor of decay.
Healthcare professionals classify gangrene into three major categories:
- Dry gangrene is often associated with patients suffering from diabetes or circulatory diseases. In this form, gangrene damage is often limited to a small body part, such as a finger or toe. The affected area will usually mummify and fall off.
- Wet gangrene develops when an injury or sore becomes infected. The gangrenous area becomes a constantly expanding source of infection for the whole body. It’s not uncommon for the infection to pass into the bloodstream and be carried throughout the body, a life-endangering complication called septic shock.
- Gas gangrene usually begins when an existing wound that is infected with one of several common bacteria, such as clostridium perfringens, Group A streptococcus, staphylococcus aureus, or vibrio vulnificus. As these organisms grow deep inside the body, they produce toxins and gas that damage blood vessels and other body tissues. Gas gangrene is often fatal.
Pennsylvania nursing homes and gangrene
Gangrene is often a sign of patient neglect at Pennsylvania residential care facilities. Typically, this can happen because of:
- Failure to follow routine hygiene rules—such as hand washing and the use of disinfectants—when touching residents or their property.
- Failure to make sure bedridden and limited-mobility residents do not develop bedsores.
- Failure to examine residents’ bodies frequently to make sure pressure sores and gangrene are not developing.
- Failure to examine residents’ feet for discoloration or wounds that resist healing.
- Failure to monitor the blood sugar of residents with diabetes.
If your loved one has developed nursing home gangrene in Pennsylvania, you may have a valid legal claim against the facility for medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, emotional distress, or even wrongful death. Call Schmidt Kramer today at (717) 888-8888 to schedule a free, confidential case review with one of our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys in Harrisburg. Do not let the nursing home get away with hurting your loved one.