Sepsis is an inflammatory condition that, if not treated properly, can be life-threatening. It is usually the result of a bacterial infection in the blood stream (called septicemia, though some people use the two terms interchangeably) that is often caused by an initial infection. The elderly, small children, and other individuals with compromised or weakened immune systems are at higher risk for contracting sepsis.
Over the years, there has been some debate about how to define sepsis. The word sepsis itself is derived from the Greek word meaning “to putrefy” or “decay.” Medically speaking, sepsis involves the presence of pathogenic organisms or their toxins flowing through the blood or present in the tissues of the person. It can also be described as a condition of poisoning that is the result of these pathogens or their toxins.
Causes of sepsis
Conditions and causes that can lead to contracting sepsis include:
- Undiagnosed infections. Too often, infections are not recognized or diagnosed properly when a person visits an emergency room with symptoms of a serious infection. Such a misdiagnosis may lead to sepsis or septic shock.
- Intravenous lines. A person’s blood stream comes into direct contact with intravenous lines. A patient can end up contracting sepsis if the point of entry into the skin is not routinely cleaned and sanitized. If proper sanitization is neglected, an infection can develop in the area that allows bacteria to contact the bloodstream.
- Wounds from surgery. After surgery, patients are routinely given antibiotics in order to facilitate proper healing. If these antibiotics are not given and taken on a prescribed, regular basis, the wounds from the surgery will heal slower, which could lead to exposure to bacteria in the blood and possible contraction of sepsis.
- Unfortunately, bedsores occur frequently in both nursing home and hospital patient settings. They most often form when a patient is left unattended in the same position for a long period of time, without the benefit of movement. The sores can develop into more serious wounds and infections, ultimately leading to sepsis.
Can sepsis be the result of medical malpractice?
When hospital nurses or nursing home staff members fail in their duty to properly care for patients and residents, the potential for sepsis to occur is real. As previously mentioned, bedsores through neglect is one way. Other ways include, failing to properly bandage wounds, failure to provide proper medication, and failure to closely monitor the health of patients in general. Any of these failures (or others) may involve medical malpractice and cause nursing homes, hospitals, or medical practitioners to incur liability.
The signs and symptoms of sepsis or septic shock
The possible side effects of sepsis and septic shock include the following:
- High fever
- Rapid breathing
- Kidney failure
- Low blood pressure, of hypotension
- Memory loss and impairment
Patients with low blood pressure are at an increased risk of tissue necrosis, or tissue death. Vasoconstrictors, which are used to sustain a person’s blood pressure while antibiotics are used to kill an infection, can deny the limbs much-needed oxygen by constricting blood flow. If the vasoconstrictors (Levophed, etc.) is overprescribed or not monitored properly, it can lead to the amputation of legs, arms, feet and hands.
If you or a loved one is suffering an injury resulting from a lack of proper diagnosis involving sepsis, or poor treatment regarding the condition, our medical malpractice attorneys at the McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can help. We have extensive experience assisting clients seeking justice for injuries they have received due to sepsis and septic shock. Partner Chad McGowan has successfully litigated sepsis amputation injury cases, including a verdict in 2017 for 13.25 Million Dollars. To arrange a free case evaluation with Chad McGowan, complete our contact form or call us today at 803-327-7800.
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Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood