Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection. It is a medical emergency and should be treated as such. Early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.
When sepsis occurs, your immune system goes into overdrive, setting off a series of reactions including widespread inflammation, swelling and blood clotting. Blood pressure can fall significantly, so that the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys is less.
Meningitis is a form of sepsis where the lining of the brain and spinal cord are affected. If not treated fast, meningitis also costs lives – even a simple penicillin injection given early on in the illness can make a major difference.
Does it kill?
Unless it is treated quickly, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death. About 37,000 people die each year because of sepsis, though more than 100,000 people are treated for it annually.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who has had surgery or wounds, including broken skin or blisters – bacteria can enter the body in this way. Chest or urine infections can also lead to sepsis, and those who are already ill or are staying in hospital may be especially vulnerable.
What are its symptoms?
Early symptoms of sepsis usually develop quickly and can include:
• a high temperature (fever)
• chills and shivering
• a fast heartbeat
• fast breathing
More severe symptoms can then develop, including:
• feeling dizzy or faint
• confusion or disorientation
• nausea and vomiting
• cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
How is sepsis diagnosed?
• A blood test is usually the first step, but other tests may be needed, including:
• Urine tests
• Stool sample tests
• Blood pressure tests
• A wound culture testRespiratory secretion testing of saliva, phlegm or mucus
• Imaging studies such as an X-ray or CT scan
• Kidney, liver and heart function tests
• A lumbar puncture
• Early diagnosis is vital so that the right treatment can be given as soon as possible – this helps to slow the progress of the sepsis and limits long-term physical damage.
How is sepsis treated?
If sepsis is diagnosed early enough, it can be treated with antibiotics at home. But if it has begun to affect how your body is functioning, emergency hospital treatment is needed. Depending on the extent of the damage and which organs are affected, patients may need to be in an intensive care unit, where they may need ventilation, dialysis, and/or blood transfusions. Intravenous antibiotics are needed if the sepsis is severe, and sometimes antiviral drugs are also needed if the sepsis is caused by a virus.
What are the complications of sepsis?
If it is not treated, it can lead to septic shock. Septic shock can lead to heart failure or the failure of other major organs, such as the liver, lungs or kidneys – it can therefore be fatal if not treated urgently.
While some patients recover fully, even if after some months, others can suffer from permanent damage and need on-going treatment for both physical and psychological damage.
Can I claim for medical negligence as a result of sepsis?
Most claims are based on:
• Failure to recognise symptoms
• Delay in diagnosis
• Failure to give urgent treatment
• Inappropriate care
• Failure to consider clinical history and immune status.
Why should I claim?
Sepsis can have an extensive psychological as well as physical and financial impact on many patients and their families. If the sepsis has resulted in death, then the bereaved family often have very considerable financial needs.
What should I do next?
Call us on 0800 050 1668. Your first consultations with our experts are free and we are happy to visit you at home or in hospital. Unlike many other firms, we also examine medical records free of charge.
We can then discuss your case in detail, and let you know if we believe you have grounds for compensation. It’s important to us that you are well-informed every step of the way – we will always be clear about the financial options for you and your case, and we will help you to decide what’s right for you.