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Sepsis Among Hospitalized Patients—Can it be Prevented?

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A new study suggests sepsis is responsible for more deaths around the globe than previously suspected.

The new study, published in The Lancet, suggests sepsis contributes to about 20 percent of deaths each year around the world.   In the US alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report sepsis is responsible for approximately 270,000 deaths each year.  Notably, one in three hospitalized patients who die had sepsis.

Clinicians and researchers around the country continue to battle the problem of sepsis.  Sepsis, also called “blood poisoning,” is a condition triggered by the immune system of a patient who is usually suffering some form of infection.  As we have discussed previously, sepsis is an overreaction of the immune system to a viral or bacterial invader. Although any kind of fungal, bacterial, or viral infection can lead to sepsis, there are types of infection more commonly associated with its occurrence, including:

  • Urinary tract infections, bladder and kidney infections
  • Respiratory infections, like pneumonia
  • Infection of the digestive system, involving the colon or the stomach

As with many serious infections, those most vulnerable to them include the very young or aged and those who are suffering an acute or chronic injury or infection. Many hospitalized patients fit this description including premature or ill babies or children, and anyone hospitalized for an illness or lingering injury.  The common element is a challenge to an immature or over-tasked immune system.

From Sepsis to Septic Shock

In a smaller study involving six US hospitals, researchers sought to assess sepsis in acute-care facilities.  The research, published in JAMA Network Open, looked at the medical records of 568 patients admitted between 2014 and 2015 who either passed away in a hospital or were discharged to hospice care.  Of those, 300 of the deaths involved sepsis and 198 deaths were directly attributed to sepsis.

While the study was small, it speaks to the severity of sepsis when it takes hold of a hospitalized patient.  Some patients admitted from the community through an Emergency Department were already developing septic shock, the most severe form of sepsis.

Septic shock occurs when the immune system releases biochemical agents throughout the body to stop an infection, sometimes causing an inflammatory reaction within the body.  The vascular system becomes leaky, blood flow is impaired, and major organs don’t get the oxygen they need to survive, leading to multi-system organ failure.

Hospitalized patients who have had invasive procedures or indwelling medical devices are at higher risk for sepsis.  For these patients, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Because symptoms of sepsis can mimic other infections, a missed diagnosis can have a fatal outcome.  Patients who recover from sepsis can have long-term or permanent health impacts.

Sepsis is a global problem without a cure or sure means of prevention.  While alert medical care can often deter sepsis, and prevent a progression into septic shock, a delay in treatment can have devastating results.  If healthcare providers fail to recognize sepsis in a loved one, seek knowledgeable legal advice from us.

Skilled medical malpractice lawyer in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland

At Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A., we serve clients and families injured by negligence and medical malpractice locally and nationally. We fight for your right to compensation when you suffer injury due to poor standards of medical care or medical mistake.  Contact us  today or call 410-234-1000 to schedule a free consultation.

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