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Small injuries can become catastrophic if infection settles in

Could a stubbed toe lead to an amputated leg? What about a skinned knee? If you get scratched by a neighbor's cat, could you lose your fingers, hand or arm as a result?

Actually, yes -- you could. It isn't the injury itself that's so dangerous because they're all arguably very mild. The problem sets in when a physician fails to take the wound seriously or misses the early signs of infection and fails to prescribe antibiotics that keep the condition from going catastrophic.

What types of infections cause minor injuries to go catastrophic?

There are two primary causes of serious infections that can get into a victim's body and cause catastrophic harm: strep and staph. Both are bacterial in nature and can be picked up off the surface of the object you wound yourself on (like a picnic table) or picked up later because of poor safety practices (like the failure of a nurse to wash his or her hands before changing your bandages).

How much should you fear strep and staph infections?

Of the two, step infections are generally the mildest. Most people have heard of strep throat but don't realize that the same bacteria can also cause skin infections like impetigo.

While itchy and unpleasant, impetigo usually eventually heals without scars -- although some victims may have a more severe reaction if they have a weak immune system.

Staph infections, however, are responsible for the type known as "methicillin-resistant" or medication-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Staph infections can be so mild that they often appear as nothing more than the common pimple. However, if they take hold under the skin in the right environment with the right victim, they can lead to infections in the flesh, ligaments, bones, hearts and lungs of their victims. Immense swelling is common, as is necrosis, or cellular death.

When does catastrophic injury result?

Because the staph infections are hard to treat even with antibiotics, a full-blown case of MRSA can lead to amputations -- which are necessary to prevent the infection from spreading and killing the patient.

If you or someone you love has suffered a catastrophic injury that could have been prevented by earlier treatment, treatment with antibiotics while the infection was still mild or prevented altogether by proper sanitary procedures, it's wise to explore your legal options with a medical malpractice attorney.

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