A bedsore, also known as a pressure ulcer, is a medical condition that arises when too much pressure is exerted upon one part of the body for too long. It is a medically complex wound that requires prompt treatment to halt its progression. If left untreated, a bedsore can continue to worsen until it is a deep, open wound that can have serious health consequences – including, in some cases, a patient’s death.
Can Bedsores Be Prevented?
Bedsores are almost always preventable. These ulcers occur in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and disabled. They are most common among people with mobility problems who are bound to beds or wheelchairs for most of the day. In these positions, pressure can be exerted upon a single point on the victim’s body – such as the back of the head, shoulder blades, tailbone or heels – for enough time that the flow of blood (and oxygen-rich blood cells) is decreased in the area enough to damage the surrounding skin cells.
If the pressure is not relieved, such as by repositioning a hospital patient or nursing home resident regularly, the bedsore can worsen. This can lead to significant health risks and complications. The tissues may necrotize, or die, around the sore. Myonecrosis, or gas gangrene, may occur, which is when bacteria infiltrate the muscle tissue and kill the cells. Cellulitis is another serious complication that refers to a bacterial infection of the skin. Other serious infections may also occur, such as bone or blood infections (sepsis). In the most severe cases, these complications can be deadly.
Can Stage 4 Bedsores Be Fatal?
Yes. At its most severe stage – Stage 4 – a bedsore can kill a patient. It is possible to treat a pressure ulcer in the earlier stages, however, to prevent it from progressing into a potentially deadly sore. It is imperative for caregivers, nurses and doctors to pay attention, look for the signs of a bedsore and take prompt action at the earliest stages. Failing to notice, diagnose or treat a bedsore increases the risk of a patient experiencing life-threatening complications.
At the time of diagnosis, a doctor will classify a bedsore as Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4. At Stages 3 and 4, a bedsore could potentially have deadly consequences for a patient. In these stages, the damage has extended beneath the surface of the skin and impacted the deeper tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, muscles, fat and bone. The tissues may have a severe level of damage and an open wound may appear. These issues expose a victim to a high risk of deadly infections.
In addition to the risk of infections, a Stage 4 bedsore may need to be operated on for treatment. If a bedsore has gotten infected, for example, it may be necessary to amputate the affected limb. Since those who are most at risk of bedsores are already vulnerable, such as the elderly, surgery can be dangerous. Complications from a bedsore surgery could prove fatal for a patient with a weakened immune system or other vulnerabilities.
Can You File a Lawsuit for a Bedsore Death?
If you are given the news that your loved one has developed a bedsore while in the care of someone else – such as a nursing home, hospice, hospital or caregiver – the victim may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit for his or her related medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.
If your loved one tragically lost his or her life because of a bedsore that had critical complications, your family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a caregiver or institution for failing to prevent and/or properly treat the bedsore before it turned fatal. The West Virginia personal injury attorneys at Manchin Injury Law Group can help you understand your legal options during a free case review in West Virginia.