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Over the course of the next few posts, our blog will be providing some important background information about sepsis, an incredibly serious medical condition that statistics show affects more than 26 million people around the world every year and which can frequently be attributed to some form of medical malpractice.
What is sepsis?
The Mayo Clinic defines sepsis as a complication stemming from an infection that can prove to be deadly if not treated properly.
Specifically, sepsis results when the body’s release of chemicals into the bloodstream to combat an underlying infection triggers an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response, in turn, can set off a chain reaction of changes within the body that have the potential to cause organ damage or even organ failure.
Just how much of a problem is sepsis?
Statistics show that over 1.6 million people here in the U.S. are hospitalized for sepsis every year, meaning someone will require this type of frontline treatment for the condition every twenty seconds. Furthermore, statistics have also revealed that sepsis is now the third leading cause of death in this country, causing over 250,000 fatalities every year.
As if all this wasn’t disconcerting enough, the numbers show that the sepsis is now the leading cause of hospitalization in the U.S. — at a cost of $20 billion per year — and that its incidence is rising by eight percent each year.
Are any populations more at risk when it comes to sepsis?
While anyone can develop sepsis, experts indicate that people age 65 and older, people with weakened immune systems (HIV, cancer treatment, etc.), and people in the intensive care unit of the hospital are all more susceptible to developing the underlying bacterial, fungal or viral infections that can lead to the condition.
In particular, abdominal infections, kidney infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia within these patient populations have been linked to a higher sepsis risk.
Where does medical malpractice come into play?
In general, sepsis is at the epicenter of medical malpractice cases when the treating medical professional 1) fails to make a timely diagnosis of the underlying infection such that treatment is delayed, 2) fails to properly treat the underlying infection or 3) fails to diagnose sepsis.
All of this is significant, of course, as early identification, and treatment with antibiotics and IV fluids help improve the odds of survival.
We will continue this discussion in our next post …
Source: The Mayo Clinic, “Sepsis,” Accessed Dec. 1, 2014; Sepsis Alliance, “Sepsis fact sheet,” Dec. 1, 2014