Posted On: November 10, 2011 by Andrew G. Slutkin

Undiagnosed Strep Infection Leads to Amputation of Child’s Legs

A six year old boy went to Baltimore-Washington Medical Center complaining of a fever, swollen tonsils, and unexplained hip pain. The hospital, located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, allegedly failed to perform a "rapid strep test" - standard safety protocol at hospitals in such situations. It has been alleged that this medical error led to the amputation of the boy’s legs as that was the only way to save his life.

A year later, his parents have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Maryland hospital, and the doctor who failed to adequately treat the boy, seeking compensation for his medical costs. The family alleges that, because the boy was wrongly diagnosed as suffering from a hip strain and nasal congestion, his strep infection worsened. In addition, they allege that the standard of care dictates he should have been given antibiotics, even if just as a precaution. Instead, his condition continued to deteriorate as he went untreated. When the boy’s parents rushed him back to the hospital, it was only to learn it was too late. The strep infection, which had gone undiagnosed, had entered the boy’s bloodstream. The infection was so severe that it had begun to attack the child’s organs. A copy of the article regarding the lawsuit can be found here.

Both primary strep infections, which invade healthy tissue such as the throat, and secondary strep infections, which generally invade tissue weakened by injury or illness, can travel from tissue to glands, at which point they enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Ultimately, in an effort to save his life, doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center amputated both of the boy’s legs. Baltimore Washington Medical Center said, in a statement, that the boy’s symptoms were not indicative of the strep infection and the care he received was appropriate at the time.

I have handled a number of cases involving failure to timely diagnose and treat infections. These cases are especially troubling when they involve serious injures to children.

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