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Another toxic shock misdiagnosis highlights need for sepsis awareness

Posted: 24/08/2016


The latest press reports of three-year old Reuben who was left fighting for his life and had to undergo amputation to both legs and seven fingers after a hospital failed to diagnose toxic shock syndrome highlights the continuing need for sepsis awareness.

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome can be a life-threatening bacterial infection which can arise following an insect bite, wound or burn. When bacteria are allowed to enter the body, the toxins produced can damage tissue, skin and organs and, if left untreated, can prove fatal.

Reuben was playing with his older brother when he was burned by an iron. He was treated at hospital but, after being discharged, he became very unwell. His mother said he was lethargic, shivering with a rash on his inner thighs, a high temperature and cold hands and feet.

After taking him to Ipswich Hospital A&E department, Reuben’s mother was told that he was simply suffering from a sore throat and that it was too soon for an infection to have set in. He was sent home with penicillin.

She phoned another hospital who advised that Reuben’s symptoms sounded like toxic shock and advised that he be taken straight to A&E. Reuben was then treated as an emergency but his family were warned that he may not survive the night. He did start to respond to the drugs administered but, because of the damage caused by the untreated toxic shock, he had to have both legs and seven fingers amputated.

The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team is pleased that the hospital in this case has apologised for the mistakes and recognised that more needs to be done to ensure that staff are aware of the importance of looking out for sepsis.

Emma Beeson, a member of the team who is currently representing a client in a similar claim involving the misdiagnosis of sepsis which led to amputation, comments: “It is very sad to hear of yet another story of a failure to recognise the clear symptoms of sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition and can have serious consequences if left untreated. 

I am pleased that the hospital has taken steps to ensure that training is given to staff about the signs of sepsis as we have seen a number of cases where medical staff have simply misdiagnosed a patient with sepsis as being dehydrated or having flu. It is important to recognise that there could be something more serious at play.” 

For further information on the signs of sepsis to look out for, please click here.

As can be seen in Reuben’s case, he had a number of the “red flag” symptoms for sepsis. 

Should you or your family have any concerns regarding a failure to diagnose a serious infection or sepsis, please contact us free on 0800 328 9545.


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