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Most people might not realize it, but one of the biggest dangers they face when they are admitted to the hospital is not surgical errors, misdiagnoses or even anesthesia errors, but rather bloodstream infections — otherwise known as sepsis.
For those unfamiliar with sepsis, it is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a “potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.” It develops when the body releases certain chemicals into the bloodstream to combat an infection and these chemicals, in turn, end up producing inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation, if left untreated, can result in organ failure or even septic shock, a condition in which a patient experiences a potentially deadly drop in blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sepsis is a very common condition, affecting upwards of 750,000 hospital patients per year. In addition to being widespread, it is also incredibly expensive to treat. Indeed, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has determined that sepsis is the single most expensive cause of hospitalization in the U.S. with an annual price tag of $24 billion.
As if this wasn’t alarming enough, a group of researchers affiliated with Kaiser Permanente Northern California recently completed a study that not only verified these numbers, but which also made some more disturbing findings.
The researchers examined 6.5 million patients hospitalized in 2010 and reached the following conclusions:
In addition, the researchers indicated that a substantial majority of the patients were already suffering from sepsis at the time of admission to the hospital, while a large number of patients were also suffering from a less acute form of sepsis (significant because it lacks a more defined set of treatment guidelines).
“[The study results] suggest that improved care for sepsis patients of all severity levels and in all hospital settings could result in many future lives saved,” concluded the primary author of the study.
Given the prevalence of sepsis and the severe health risks it presents, here’s hoping that hospitals and health officials take note of this study and start examining viable solutions to ensure proper treatment.
If a failure to treat sepsis or a misdiagnosis of another equally dangerous condition caused you or a loved one to suffer unnecessarily, consider speaking with a legal professional to learn more about seeking justice.
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Blood infections play role in up to half of hospital deaths: Study,” May 19, 2014