Blood Poisoning - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Blood Poisoning - Medical Malpractice

Sepsis is a medical condition in which there is a severe infection from a bacterium (usually) that has spread through the bloodstream to involve the entire body. The blood pressure gets extremely low due to dilatation of the blood vessels and there is poor circulation to the end organs, leading to end organ failure. This is known as shock. It can be caused by toxins released by the bacterium or by fungi or viruses.

Those that are at highest risk for sepsis includes those who have diabetes, AIDS or medical treatments like chemotherapy that block the immune system from doing its job. People on steroids also have a weak immune system and are at risk for sepsis. It can just as easily happen in normal people as well. Young babies are prone to sepsis because their immune system is not completely formed. Sepsis in babies is harder to diagnose than sepsis in adults. The elderly are also prone to getting septic. They suffer from more concurrent diseases that make them prone to getting sepsis.

The number of people who have died from sepsis has almost doubled in the last twenty years. This is because there are far more cases of sepsis going around. There is more sepsis because there are more transplant patients, more people on chemotherapy and stronger bacteria floating around. There are also more elderly patients who are at risk for sepsis. Antibiotic usage has increased so that there are more antibiotic resistant bacteria around.

Sepsis can begin as a wound infection, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and bowel infections, such as appendicitis. Meningitis can spread to form sepsis if left unchecked. Thos at highest risk for sepsis are the very young, the very old, those on immunosuppressants and those on radiation or chemotherapy. Those on steroids or who have had a splenectomy are at a greater risk as are those who are diabetic, have AIDS or cirrhosis. Those who have had large burns on their body or severe injuries can be at a greater risk of getting sepsis as are those with meningitis, pneumonia, cellulitis or urinary tract infections.

The signs and symptoms of sepsis include a fever or possibly a very low body temperature. Shaking chills are possible as is sweating. The patient is generally very tachycardic (fast heart beat) with agitation, confusion and disorientation. There is decreased urinary output and there may be a rash, depending on the cause of the sepsis. Joint pain is likely, of the large and small joints alike.

The doctor will diagnose sepsis after a careful history and physical examination. The doctor will have blood drawn to show the presence of bacteria, fungi or viruses in the bloodstream. The white blood cell count will be elevated in many cases and there may be problems with the liver function and kidney function due to the sepsis. Samples can be taken of the sputum, urine, abscess fluid, or spinal fluid, depending on the source of the infection. Sometimes the doctor doesn't know where the infection came from so that blood is taken from many sources to get a better diagnosis. A chest x-ray may be performed to look for pneumonia as a cause of sepsis.

CT scanning using dye can be done to see if there is rupture of any viscus in the bowel. MRI scanning may be done to locate an abscess that is internal to the skin. A cardiac monitor is used to measure the heart rate and to see if there are any heart irregularities. The patient is placed on a pulse oximeter to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood stream.

Medical treatment for sepsis is roughly the same for adults as for children. They both receive oxygen in order to have enough oxygen to oxygenate the tissues and prevent end organ damage. Antibiotics are usually given by intravenous means so as to best kill the bacteria in the blood stream. Your doctor will choose an antibiotic that is broad spectrum or is specific to kill the bacterium causing the sepsis. IV fluids are used to replace fluids lost because the person cannot eat or drink well. The patient will be hospitalized until they are very stable with normal blood pressure and heart rate and no fever. Tubes, surgery or drains may need to be employed if there is an abscess or something that needs surgical correction, such as a bowel perforation.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here