Sometimes patients may suffer sepsis while being treated for other conditions in a hospital or medical facility. This condition can lead to serious long-term complications. Many cases of sepsis are fatal as approximately 250,000 Americans die from this condition each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unfortunately, some cases of sepsis are a result of negligence by doctors, surgeons or other medical professionals. If you or a loved one suffered sepsis and you believe this was due to medical negligence, it is important to contact an experienced Cincinnati medical malpractice lawyer. He or she can analyze the circumstances surrounding your claim and determine if you may be able to pursue compensation for the injuries that resulted.
What Is Sepsis?
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an existing infection. Chemicals in your bloodstream fight the infection, causing an inflammatory response in the body that can result in tissue damage. The complex interactions between the infection and the immune system cause the immune system to overreact to such an extent that even if the bacteria are destroyed, the damage continues to spread.
The most extreme cases result in shock and organ failure. In some instances, this occurs within hours. Unfortunately, the mortality rate from extreme sepsis, called septic shock, is almost 50 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is why it is critical that medical professionals accurately diagnose this condition and begin treatment immediately.
What Causes Sepsis?
Most cases occur when the body is affected by common bacteria. Sepsis can also be caused by a viral or fungal infection.
The most common types of infections that lead to sepsis include:
- Kidney infection
- Bloodstream infection
- Skin infection
- Abdominal infection
The bacteria and germs that are most likely to cause infections that result in sepsis include staph, E. coli and some versions of Streptococcus.
While anyone can develop an infection and resulting sepsis, certain groups of people are at a heightened risk for sepsis due to their weakened immune systems, including the following:
- Aging population
- Young children
- People who are currently sick or in an intensive care unit of a hospital
- People who have invasive devices installed like intravenous catheters or breathing tubes
- People who have existing burns, wounds or injuries
- People with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, cancer and kidney disease
- Individuals with weakened immune systems due to HIV, cancer treatments or transplant drugs
Sepsis is often misdiagnosed because many of its symptoms are subtle at first and may be associated with other medical conditions. Common symptoms of sepsis include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Cold shivers
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- High fever
- Fast heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breathing
- Extreme pain or discomfort
Early diagnosis of this condition is vital to prevent death and serious health problems. Medical professionals can use a variety of tools to diagnose sepsis, including the following:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Testing wound secretions
- Testing respiratory secretions
- CT scan
There are three stages of sepsis, each with its own unique set of symptoms and possible complications:
Symptoms of sepsis during its early stage that can result in a diagnosis of this condition include:
- Body temperature above 101 F or below 96.8 F
- Heart rate greater than 90 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
Most patients are able to survive this condition if it is diagnosed early.
If the patient exhibits at least one of the following symptoms, his or her diagnosis is upgraded to severe sepsis:
- Significantly less urine output
- Decrease in platelet count
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Abrupt change in mental status
- Abnormal heart pumping
These symptoms are indications that an organ may be failing. Having severe sepsis places the patient at greater risk for developing infections in the future.
In addition to having the symptoms associated with severe sepsis, patients experience low blood pressure that cannot be remedied by adding fluids to the patient.
Treatment Of Sepsis
Patients who have sepsis may receive the following treatments:
- Administration of oxygen
- Testing of blood for infection
- Administration of antibiotics
- Receipt of IV fluids
- Additional testing of the blood and blood cells
- Measurements of urinary output
- Treatment of the source of infection
In some cases, surgery may be necessary if the tissue has been significantly damaged.
Where Negligence Can Occur
Even though sepsis is relatively common, it is sometimes due to medical negligence. Different hospitals may have very different rates of sepsis, with higher rates often being linked to a lack of sterilization procedures to rid operating areas of dangerous bacteria.
Some possible instances where negligence may be present include failing to:
- Properly sterilize surgical instruments
- Wash hands properly
- Promptly diagnose sepsis
- Use proper sterilization techniques when the patient uses a feeding tube or catheter
- Promptly treat sepsis
Contact A Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you believe your sepsis was not diagnosed in a timely manner, it is important that you talk to a Cincinnati medical malpractice lawyer. The attorneys at O’Connor, Acciani & Levy have extensive knowledge on this subject.
We can conduct an investigation into the circumstances that resulted in sepsis and determine whether you may have a viable claim against the hospital for the injuries you sustained. We work on contingency, so you only pay us if we recover compensation on your behalf.