Sepsis, a life-threatening infection, is often caused by medical negligence, misdiagnosis, or physician errors that allow the infection to flourish in the body.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s inability to fight infection. When sepsis occurs, the body’s normal response to infections is altered. Instead of releasing chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infections, the body starts to harm its own tissues and internal organs. As sepsis progresses, it can lead to septic shock where blood pressure drops to life-threatening levels, often leading to death.
Sepsis infections are often caused when a person’s illness symptoms and medical conditions are misdiagnosed. Signs and symptoms of sepsis are often non-specific and include:
- Fever over 101 degrees F.
- Heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
- Change in mental status or confusion
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue or malaise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of sepsis are increasing each year. Health research links the rise in sepsis cases to an aging population, an increase in immune deficiency diseases, and an increase in antibiotic resistance. Studies show that sepsis is most common in elderly adults and very young children who develop pneumonia or infections in the kidneys, abdomen, or bloodstream. People in intensive care units, who undergo surgical procedures, have urinary tract infections, and are on ventilators have a higher risk of contracting a sepsis infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Proper diagnosis and treatment of sepsis are essential to prevent the spread of infection throughout the body. Patients with sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock require immediate admission to a hospital. Initial treatment includes supplemental oxygen and attention to respiratory and circulatory functions. To prevent life-threatening conditions, the source of infection must be identified and treated with proper antibiotics, therapy, or surgery as soon as possible. Sepsis is a very serious condition that is fatal in 50 to 60 percent of elderly adults, even with proper precautions and treatments.
Diagnosing sepsis requires blood tests, laboratory tests, and imaging tests by medical professionals. Since symptoms are common in many medical conditions, physicians must be careful to perform adequate testing for proper diagnosis and treatment. Ignoring a sepsis patient’s symptoms, misdiagnosing an infection, prescribing the wrong medications, or neglecting essential treatments can result in the death of a patient and a medical malpractice lawsuit for a physician or hospital.