Sepsis is a life-threatening and potentially fatal condition caused by the body’s reaction to an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals normally released into the bloodstream to fight infection trigger inflammation throughout the body. This can result in damage to multiple organs, which can cause organ damage and, in some cases, death.
According to information published by the Mayo Clinic, sepsis has three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. The mortality rate for septic shock is nearly 50%, and an episode of severe sepsis increases the risk of future infections. Severe sepsis causes blood flow to the vital organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys, to become impaired. Sepsis can also cause blood clots to form in organs and extremities such as arms, legs, fingers, and toes, which can lead to organ failure and tissue death (gangrene).
Because of these factors, the goal is to detect and treat sepsis during its early stage; however, this does not always happen due to negligence or lack of training on the part of the medical personnel who come in contact with the patient.
While sepsis can result from any kind of bacterial, viral or fungal infection, the most common types are pneumonia and infections of the abdomen, kidneys or bloodstream (bacteremia).
A diagnosis of sepsis includes a suspected or confirmed infection that is usually accompanied by a body temperature above 101 F (38.3 C) or below 96.8 F (36 C), a heart rate higher than 90 beats a minute and/or a respiratory rate above 20 breaths per minute.
According to the Mayo Clinic, severe sepsis is diagnosed when at least one of the following symptoms occurs, any one of which may be a sign of organ failure:
- Significantly decreased urine output
- Abrupt change in mental status
- Decreased platelet count
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal heart pumping
- Abdominal pain
Septic shock occurs when the signs of severe sepsis are present, along with extremely low blood pressure that fails to respond to fluid replacement treatment.
Sepsis most often occurs in people who are hospitalized, especially those who are very young or elderly. Other risk factors include:
- a compromised immune system
- serious illness, often severe enough to require treatment in a hospital intensive care unit
- serious wounds or injuries such as burns
- invasive devices such as intravenous catheters or breathing tubes
Recent increases in cases of sepsis have been attributed to a few factors that include longer lifespans, which increases the higher risk age group of those 65 and older; new strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and a higher number of people with weakened immune systems caused by HIV, cancer treatments or transplant drugs.
Sepsis can be caused by negligence on the part of a physician or other medical practitioner who fails to recognize and properly treat an infection in its early stages.
The condition can also originate in a nursing home or assisted living facility, where a patient develops a serious infection from an illness or an injury caused by a fall. If not properly diagnosed and treated, the illness or wound can lead to an infectious condition that can result in sepsis.
If you suspect that a family member or loved one has sepsis, regardless of the stage, it is important to seek immediate medical attention and contact our experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine whether the condition was caused by negligence and help your family recover the damages caused by the improper care.
The skilled and compassionate lawyers at 1-800-Malpractice ® are here to help you navigate the complicated legal process and help obtain the compensation your family and your loved one deserve.