When you visit your podiatrist, whether for an ingrown toenail, a bunion, or some other malady of the foot or ankle, you have a right to expect competent podiatric care. If, as a result of your podiatrist’s negligence or ineptitude, you end up with a severe infection known as osteomyelitis, you definitely have reason to be distressed.
If you, or someone you love, have experienced this awful consequence of a podiatry visit, you need a skilled podiatry malpractice attorney to represent you in your quest to receive compensation for your ongoing ordeal. Retaining an attorney who specializes in podiatry malpractice, like Lawrence M. Karam, PC, one of the lead attorneys of Dental & Podiatry Malpractice Lawyers of New York, will give you the best chance at a successful legal outcome.
What is osteomyelitis and how does it occur as a result of a visit to the podiatrist?
Osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone, so it is automatically a deeply invasive condition, traveling from the soft tissue inward. In the majority of cases, the infection is caused by a bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus (staph) that enters the body through an injury or as a result of an orthopedic or a podiatric procedure.
Any opening in the skin can give the bacteria a foothold (pardon the pun) to begin infecting and damaging tissue. So, in the case of a podiatry visit, either the podiatrist’s invasive procedure or the injury you came in with may allow the disease process to begin.
Risk Factors for Osteomyelitis in Podiatry Patients
While anyone can develop this infection, the following factors increase your risk:
- Advanced age, since the resistance of bones to infection, diminishes as you get older
- Recent injury (e.g. fracture, puncture wound)
- Recent surgery involving a bone of the foot or ankle (e.g. bunionectomy)
- Diabetes (because of lessened immunity, poor circulation, nerve damage)
- Other disorders that weaken the immune system (e.g. including kidney disease, peripheral artery disease, sickle cell disease, autoimmune disorders)
- Cancer treatments that damage the immune system
- Smoking (which interferes with circulation)
- Use of injected illicit drugs (the needles are less likely to be sterile)
One of the reasons it is crucial for all doctors to take comprehensive medical histories of all their patients, and to update them on a regular basis, is to make certain they are aware of such increased risk factors in each patient they treat.
How can a podiatrist expose you to osteomyelitis?
Strangely, the germs that cause the severe symptoms of this infection are pervasive in our environment, existing in the noses and mouths, even of healthy individuals. This is why it is so critical for all doctors to take measures to control their spread. All medical professionals legally owe a “duty of care” to the patients they treat. Their patients trust them to take precautions and be meticulous in their efforts to do no harm. There are many ways a podiatrist’s negligence or inattention may either expose you to osteomyelitis or allow the condition to worsen, such as:
- Failing to take a full medical history to identify your risk factors
- Failing to sterilize examining tools and surgical instruments
- Failing to diagnose osteomyelitis early on when it can be successfully treated
- Failing to treat the bone disease promptly and properly
Is your podiatrist guilty of malpractice?
To answer this question you must contact a highly qualified podiatry malpractice attorney who will be able to assess the unique aspects of your case and determine whether you have a likelihood of receiving substantial damages for your medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Symptoms that Should Have Led Your Podiatrist to Diagnostic Testing for Osteomyelitis
Symptoms of the infection include:
- Severe pain and fever
- Redness, warmth, and swelling at the site
- Extreme fatigue
For some patients, the symptoms of osteomyelitis may be subtle, especially in view of the fact that the disease is so serious. This is particularly true for older adults and those with compromised immune systems, which is why it is so important for the podiatrist treating you to be aware of any health problems you may have.
Appropriate Diagnosis and Treatment of Osteomyelitis
Your podiatrist, once osteomyelitis is suspected, should immediately have a blood test administered to see if your white blood cell count is elevated — a sign that infection is present. After that, the generally favored method of diagnosis is a bacterial culture from a bone biopsy in the setting of bone necrosis. An MRI scan may also be needed, and is considered more accurate and focused for the purpose than a bone scan.
Osteomyelitis is a very serious condition that must be treated promptly with the administration of IV antibiotics. In most cases, surgery must be performed to remove any necrotic (dead) bone tissue and more intravenous antibiotics administered post-surgically. If your podiatrist has failed to properly diagnose and treat your infection, you may well have the basis of a successful lawsuit.
Worst Case Scenario: What happens if your infection remains untreated?
In addition to bone death, an infection in your bone can spread to a nearby joint, resulting in septic arthritis or, in children, to a nearby growth plate, impeding the normal growth of the bones. Other complications include chronic bone pain, abscess (increasing the risk of squamous skin cancer), or nerve damage.
If you or a loved one has suffered or is suffering, the misery of osteomyelitis as a result of podiatry malpractice, you should contact Lawrence M. Karam, PC, a keen, compassionate attorney who will assist you in obtaining the significant damages you deserve and charge you no attorneys’ fees until he wins your case.