Delayed Diagnosis of Ludwig’s Angina

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What is Ludwig’s Angina?

Ludwig’s angina is a serious condition dentists need to know how to recognize and treat.  A patient who visits their dentist with a painful tooth and swelling in their mouth should raise a red flag for Ludwig’s angina.

Ludwig’s angina is an infection that usually starts with an infected tooth.  Infection spreads from a molar to the base of the tongue and tissues of the neck. The infection can progress rapidly, leading to massive tongue swelling and secretions.  A patient with Ludwig’s angina may find it difficult or impossible for a to open their mouth, speak, swallow secretions, or breathe properly.  Before long, patients may require mechanical ventilation to avoid respiratory collapse, or death.

Because the infection starts in a tooth and often involves the tongue and tissues inside the mouth, dentists are often the first line of defense for catching and treating these infections before they develop into a medical emergency.  Dentists need to assure patients with signs or symptoms of Ludwig’s angina receive appropriate antibiotics to treat the infection.  Dentists should also make sure the patient is carefully monitored by a doctor and seeks emergency treatment at the first sign of any trouble breathing.

An Example of Medical Malpractice Involving Ludwig’s Angina

The law firm of Lupetin & Unatin has seen the danger which can result if dentists fail to recognize the signs or symptoms of Ludwig’s angina.  The firm represented the family of a man in his late 50’s who developed severe pain in one of his molars.  A dentist evaluated the patient and saw signs of infection associated with a broken tooth.  The following day, an oral surgeon extracted the tooth. 

The day after his tooth was extracted, the patient returned to the dentist. There was swelling of the patient’s tongue and the tissues between the patient’s cheek and the gums and teeth. Unfortunately, the dentist failed to recognize that the patient had symptoms of Ludwig’s angina.  The dentist should have contacted the patient’s oral surgeon.  The dentist should have also warned the patient of the potential harm associated with his infection and the need to seek emergency care if his symptoms worsened. Instead, the dentist told the patient to come back to see him the following day if necessary.

The swelling from the infection progressed and later that day the patient decided to seek help at the emergency department.  By that time, he was experiencing difficulty swallowing secretions and breathing, and his tongue was massively swollen.  Regrettably, the patient died due to the condition. The case settled for a substantial and confidential dollar amount.

If you believe a dentist or oral surgeon missed an opportunity to diagnose Ludwig’s angina, and your family suffered a catastrophic loss as a result, we may be able to help.  Our law firm will gather the facts about what happened and may obtain medical records to investigate whether a dental malpractice lawsuit is warranted.

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