Frequently Asked Questions About Sepsis


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What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is your body’s severe and toxic response to some sort of infection. Normally, the body’s immune system releases chemicals that fight off infection. When sepsis occurs, those same chemicals instead cause an extreme inflammatory, or swelling, response. This response can be caused by any type of infection, including bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal. Sepsis is considered a medical emergency, and it must be identified and treated promptly for the best outcome for patients. 

How Do You Get Sepsis?

Sepsis can develop from an infection in the body, such as a urinary tract infection, respiratory infection, or gastrointestinal infection. Additionally, it can develop from skin infections that include surgical wounds or areas where invasive medical procedures have been inserted, like IVs, ventilators, catheters, and such.

Once the infection is present, sepsis can develop, causing widespread inflammation that may lead to leaky blood vessels and blood clots. These conditions of restricted blood flow deprive organs of sufficient nutrients and oxygen, which can lead to organ damage and worse. Sepsis is unpredictable and it can affect anyone suffering from some type of infection.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sepsis?

Sepsis symptoms often begin subtly, seeming like the symptoms of the flu or a virus. The warning signs of sepsis must be recognized by doctors or medical professionals. Diagnosing sepsis early is the key to preventing the patient from entering septic shock and dying.

The signs to look for include:

  • Existing infection
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • High fevers and chills
  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Abnormal urine stream
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cool, pale skin

If there is a delay in diagnosing sepsis, the doctor or hospital may be held liable for medical malpractice and be required to pay substantial damages to the injured party or the family of the injured party when there is a death.

How Common Is Sepsis And Can You Die From It?

A just-released study found that sepsis is involved in as many as 20 percent of deaths worldwide. In the United States, an estimated 1.7 million cases are reported annually, with 270,000 deaths occurring as a result. Those startling statistics are more than double what was previously believed. If not treated properly or swiftly, sepsis can cause the patient’s organs to fail, blood pressure drops drastically, the heart weakens, and the patient develops septic shock. When this happens, the condition can progress very quickly with multiple organs shutting down, and the patient can die.What Is The Difference Between Sepsis and Septic Shock?

Septic shock occurs when sepsis is not treated quickly enough. The signs of septic shock are a fast heart rate, low blood pressure that doesn’t respond to medical treatment, an altered mental state, and the need for a ventilator to breathe. When septic shock develops, it’s a life-threatening situation that requires immediate medical intervention. Patients who have septic shock are typically cared for in the intensive care unit where they are given multiple antibiotics, large amounts of fluid via an IV, and medication to help support healthy blood pressure. Unfortunately, once septic shock develops, there is a higher chance that the condition will be fatal.

Is Sepsis Considered Medical Malpractice?

There are many cases of sepsis that can be considered medical malpractice. Whenever a doctor fails to prevent, diagnose, or properly treat the condition, they may be held liable in a malpractice claim. When any of the following occur, and sepsis develops, you may have a valid claim for malpractice:

  • Failure to recognize an infection
  • Failure to recognize sepsis
  • Delay in treating the infection or sepsis
  • Not performing the right urine, blood, and wound secretion tests
  • Not administering the right antibiotics
  • Not cleaning the IV lines properly
  • Not providing the proper fluids
  • Failure to inform the patient properly
  • Failure to obtain the proper informed consent

When Is Sepsis The Hospital’s Fault?

Patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities may develop infections, called hospital-acquired infections (HAI), while they are there. These types of infections are a common precursor to sepsis. Medical negligence can lead to patients contracting an HAI. For example, any of the following can lead to a hospital-acquired infection:

  • Failure to properly sterilize medical equipment and devices
  • Poor sanitation processes
  • Improper handwashing between patients
  • Insufficient filtration of heating and cooling systems in the medical facility
  • Improper care of surgical wounds and bedsores
  • Use of defective medical products

When sepsis isn’t diagnosed early enough, HAIs may occur, leading to sepsis. If the case of sepsis is found to have been preventable, the hospital may be found to be at fault.

What Should I Do If I Acquired Sepsis In The Hospital?

If you or your loved one suffered from sepsis or septic shock, you might be entitled to compensation for the injuries. That’s why you must consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney who has handled sepsis cases successfully.

At Ross Feller Casey, we have lawyers who are knowledgeable about these types of claims and can help you determine if your situation was caused by medical negligence. Contact our office to schedule your free case review with one of our experienced sepsis lawyers.  

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