Failure to diagnose endocarditis can constitute medical malpractice in Minnesota


What is endocarditis and why is it dangerous – Minnesota medial malpractice lawyer expains

Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium, the layer of cells lining the inside of the heart. Various bacteria (or occasionally fungi) cause endocarditis by spreading from their original locations in the body, through the bloodstream, and landing on damaged parts of a heart.


It is very rare for people with healthy, undamaged hearts to develop endocarditis. Most endocarditis patients have some form of heart injury or defect, such as artificial or damaged valves, and even people whose heart defects or injuries have been repaired are still vulnerable to endocarditis.  Intravenous (IV) drug use is also a risk factor for endocarditis, since bacteria can enter the bloodstream on contaminated needles.


Symptoms of endocarditis

The symptoms of endocarditis vary widely from patient to patient.  Common symptoms include fever, heart murmurs (or a change to a heart murmur that a patient had previously), muscle and joint pain, coughing, tenderness around the spleen and lymph nodes, swelling in the feet and legs, and bloody urine.  Shortness of breath and swelling in the legs, feet, and ankles may be signs that the infection has caused heart failure, a chronic, particularly hazardous state in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to supply the body.


Endocarditis is a serious condition and if not diagnosed quickly can cause serious injury

Endocarditis is dangerous for several reasons.  First of all, the infection itself causes “vegetations,” or clumped cell remains and bacteria within the heart.  The vegetations can detach from the heart, travel through the bloodstream, and cause stroke in the brain or organ damage throughout the body.  Also, endocarditis can damage the valves of the heart and destroy the endocardium, unless it is treated quickly.  Without treatment, the heart failure that results is fatal in most cases. The bacteria that cause endocarditis can also spread to other parts of the body, causing further infection and abscesses (pockets of infection that can impede organ functions).


Failure to diagnose endocarditis can be medical malpractice

Doctors confirm a diagnosis of endocarditis through a combination of medical history, patient-reported symptoms, and various tests.  Most commonly, doctors use blood tests to see whether a patient has the low levels of red blood cells that signal endocarditis.  Blood tests also help pinpoint the type of infection causing the disease, which lets doctors select the right antibiotic. Other tests include X-rays, CT and MRI scans, ultrasounds, and electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG).


If the infection is not diagnosed and treated early, the complications of endocarditis can lead to death or, still troublingly, years of treatment, surgery, and increased risk of future heart disease or infection.


If you or a loved one’s doctor failed to diagnose endocarditis or was negligent in treating it and caused significant harm, depending on the facts, their conduct could constitute medical malpractice.  If you have questions about your case or the handling of a loved one’s endocarditis, contact us today at (612) 444-3374 for a free case evaluation and to discuss your potential claim.

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