You can get sepsis when an infection that you already have in any part of your body, no matter if it is in your skin, urinary tract, lungs, or anywhere else, triggers a chain reaction in your entire body. This type of infection is potentially life-threatening if not treated rapidly since it can quickly go from tissue damage to organ failure to death. Many nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to sepsis and should be monitored for the warning signs.
Signs and Symptoms of Septic Shock
Once the cascade of changes originated by sepsis starts taking place, multiple organ systems may end up failing, ultimately resulting in death. Symptoms include:
- Fever or very low body temperature
- Difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- Fast heart rate
- Mental confusion or disorientation
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
How is sepsis diagnosed?
Your medical professional can determine if you have sepsis if you have:
- Low platelet count
- A blood culture that shows positive for infection
- Abnormal function of the liver or kidney
Since sepsis is related to infection, it can happen to anyone. However, it is not only more common but also more dangerous in:
- Older adults
- Nursing home residents
- Post-surgical patients
- Women who are pregnant
- Anyone suffering from a chronic condition such as cancer, kidney or lung disease, or diabetes
- People with weakened immune systems
- People who are hospitalized
- People with large burns or wounds
- People with breathing tubes
The main culprit of sepsis is bacteria, but it can also develop through viral, fungal, or parasitic infections. The initial source of sepsis can be any point in the body, although the most common sites are:
- The lungs, through infections such as pneumonia
- The abdomen, either because of appendicitis, bowel problems, liver, or gallbladder infections are present
- Kidneys or bladder where urinary tract infections may exist, particularly if the patient has a drain line or catheter
- The brain or spinal cord where infections may also take hold
- The skin where bacteria can gain a foothold through openings such as IV catheters, although inflammation of the skin such as cellulite can also cause sepsis
How is sepsis treated or managed?
A quick diagnosis and immediate treatment are both crucial once there is a suspicion of sepsis. Patients are placed in the intensive care unit of the hospital so that the source and type of infection can be identified, blood and urine tests are performed, X-rays or CT scans are administered, and the patient receives an antibiotic to treat the infection.
Intravenous fluids are given to keep the blood pressure from dropping too low. Medications to constrict blood vessels are used, and if there is organ failure the patients will receive supportive care such as mechanical ventilation when there is respiratory failure or dialysis for kidney failure.
Can sepsis be prevented?
There are actions that can be taken to prevent the onset of sepsis. These are:
- Routine and frequent hand-washing practices
- Recommended vaccines should be applied
- Routine medical care for chronic conditions is essential
- If there is suspicion of infection, medical attention should be received immediately
Nursing home residents and people in intensive care units are the most vulnerable to infections that can turn into sepsis. If you or your loved one has been hospitalized due to a condition or surgery and developed sepsis with dire consequences, it is imperative that you get the right legal help to fight for your rights. Contact the Rooth Law Firm to get started.