13 September marked World Sepsis Day. Our Medical Negligence Solicitor explains why it is important to raise awareness of this potentially life threatening condition.
Most people will be familiar with the term “sepsis” however few people actually know what it is and how serious it can be. According to NHS England, there are around 123,000 cases of sepsis a year in England and 37,000 deaths are associated with the condition, with these figures creeping upwards.
Put simply, sepsis a complication of an infection. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection is to cause injury to its own tissues and organs. It is sometimes referred to as septicaemia or blood poisoning. Strictly speaking, septicaemia is a serious bloodstream infection, whereas sepsis can affect organs inside the body without blood poisoning.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Everyone is potentially at risk of developing sepsis from minor infections however some people are more vulnerable than others are. These include;
People who are already in hospital are at a particular risk.
Sepsis should be regarded with the same urgency as a heart attack.
Treatment varies depending upon the site and cause of the initial infection, the organs affected and extent of damage. A broad-spectrum antibiotic should be administered immediately and at least within one hour where possible. Management of sepsis after admission to hospital usually involves three treatments and three tests, known as the “sepsis six”.
1. Antibiotics – early diagnosis may only require an oral course that can be taken at home
2. IV fluids
3. Oxygen if levels are low
4. Taking blood cultures to identify the type of bacteria causing the sepsis
5. taking a blood sample to assess the severity of sepsis
6. Monitoring your urine output to assess severity and kidney function
Sepsis can be quite manageable, however, it can become severe. Septic Shock is the most severe form of sepsis.
As sepsis worsens, blood flow to vital organs such as your brain, heart and kidneys becomes impaired. Sepsis can also cause blood clots to form in your organs, arms, legs, fingers and toes leading to varying degrees of organ failure and tissue death.
Most people recover from sepsis, but the mortality rate for septic shock is nearly 50%.
SEPSIS AND CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS
As a result of sepsis, people can become very ill and sometimes sustain permanent injury. In addition to long-term physical effects, which can include chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction and/or amputations some patients also suffer with mental effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder. In the most serious cases, sepsis can result in death. This can occur even when those treating them have done everything they can when they should.
However, from time to time a person’s outcome is worse off than it would have been as a result of sub-standard treatment or care. There may be a delay in diagnosing a person’s symptoms, a misdiagnosis of symptoms or a delay in commencing treatment.
MORE INFORMATION For more information and factsheets on sepsis please visit https://www.world-sepsis-day.org/. Should you or someone you know have been affected by sepsis and want to discuss an issue relating to this topic please contact our Medical Negligence Department – our team of expert solicitors will be able to assist. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of September 2017.