Sepsis Septicemia - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Sepsis Septicemia - Medical Malpractice

Sepsis or Septicemia is a serious and life threatening condition in which there is an infection in your body that your body responds to in a way that can kill you. It can injure tissues away from the site of the actual infection. The infection is usually bloodborne but has a site where the infection began such as the skin, digestive tract or lungs. It leads to septic shock, in which the blood pressure drops dangerously and the person can die.

Risk factors for having sepsis include having a compromised immune system, being sick with another disease, being very young or very old, and having an invasive device within your body, such as a breathing tube or urinary catheter.

The main symptoms of sepsis include fever over 101.3 degrees or under 95 degrees, heartbeat higher than 100 beats per minute, respiratory rate higher than 20 beats per minute, and a probable infection somewhere in the body. If you have severe sepsis, you exhibit organ dysfunction and symptoms and signs including mottled skin, decreased urinary output, decrease in platelet count, change in mental status, abnormal heart function and trouble breathing. If you have a decrease in blood pressure, it is known as "septic shock".

There is normally a delicate balance between the infection and your immune system's response to the infection. Too much immune system response means that you will have sepsis instead of a normal reaction to an infection. Inflammation spreads beyond the site of infection and affects the entire body.

The biggest problem with sepsis is that you tend to form tiny blood clots in the organs, which results in organ damage throughout the body. You cannot break down these clots very well and the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the organs and tissues. Organ failure is likely if the problem isn't taken care of.

Risk factors for sepsis include being an infant or being older than age 65. Blacks are more likely to become septic than whites, and if you have an immune dysfunction including HIV/AIDS, cancer, cancer treatment, organ transplant, kidney failure, and liver failure, you have a higher risk of sepsis. Invasive medical devices like an artificial joint, breathing tube or urinary catheter can put you at greater risk of sepsis. Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of sepsis, including bacteremia, diabetes, pneumonia, and severe injuries. There is also a genetic predisposition toward having sepsis.

The diagnosis of sepsis involves demonstrating the presence of infection, clotting disorders, liver damage and kidney damage, impaired oxygenation and electrolyte imbalances. You can culture the urine for the type of bacteria involved or culture a wound to show which antibiotic might work the best. A lumbar puncture may show if there is infection in the cerebrospinal fluid and CT scans or MRI scans can show pockets of infection in areas not otherwise easily visualized. X-ray can show lung damage or pneumonia. An ultrasound can show pockets of infection in the abdomen, particularly.

Treatment of sepsis and Septicemia requires early and aggressive treatment of the infection and the secondary features of the disease. Sepsis has a high mortality rate and it is not survivable without a great deal of treatment.

Medications for sepsis include antibiotics, which are usually given in multiple types to catch the source of the infection if the bacteria causing the infection are not known. If you have severe sepsis, you need close monitoring of your condition including treatment in an ICU. Vasopressors may need to be given in order to bring up the blood pressure and corticosteroids may be used to help maintain control over the immune system. Insulin is given to control the blood sugar. Supportive care includes oxygenation with an ET tube or with nasal cannula, and pain medications for pain.

Surgery might need to be done in sepsis to drain abscesses in the chest or abdomen, to remove medical devices that are the source of the infection, to put in IV lines and to remove drainage tubes that are the source of the infection.

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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