Sepsis and Septic Shock:
Deadly Risks and Liabilities
When we enter a hospital, we expect to get healthier, not sicker. But every year tens of thousands of Americans develop sepsis or septic shock while hospitalized. These infection-related, life-threatening conditions are a leading cause of death in American hospitals: according to the Center for Disease Control, one in three people who die in hospitals die of sepsis. In all, about 250,000 people die of sepsis each year.
In recent years, these alarming statistics have led many hospitals to increase their efforts to prevent sepsis and septic shock. But patients and their loved ones should also be aware of these, the risk factors, and the steps necessary to reduce those risks.
What are Sepsis and Septic Shock?
Sepsis arises from the body’s extreme response to an infection. When an infection is present, the immune system sends chemicals into the bloodstream to fight it. Instead of combating the infection, however, the chemicals trigger inflammation throughout the body, impairing blood flow. Persistent poor blood flow leads to organ damage and failure, and death. Symptoms include fever, chills, an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion, and disorientation.
Septic shock is a condition that arises due to uncontrolled sepsis. It is characterized by a dramatic drop in blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and changed mental state. The mortality rate of septic shock is extremely high: approximately 40 percent of patients who develop septic shock die from it.
What are the risk factors for sepsis and septic shock?
Infection is the highest risk. This infection can come from virtually any source, from a simple mosquito bite to bacterial pneumonia or meningitis. In hospitals, the infection may arise from microbes that entering the body during invasive medical procedures such as surgery or the insertion of a catheter, but may also develop in certain parts of the body, like a tooth, lungs, or urinary tract.
Some people are at higher risk of sepsis than others, including:
- Infants and young children
- People over age 65
- People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, or lung, liver or kidney disease
- People with compromised immune systems.
How to avoid sepsis?
Vaccination, treating infections promptly, and cleaning wounds thoroughly helps prevent sepsis. In the hospital, ensure that everyone who enters your room washes their hands. The hospital or healthcare provider should also have established protocols for preventing sepsis.
How is sepsis or septic shock treated?
Sepsis and septic shock requires immediate treatment with antibiotics. Your health care provider may also administer fluids and oxygen if necessary. Patients with septic shock are usually admitted to the ICU and receive round-the-clock attention and care and heavy doses of antibiotics.
Liability for sepsis and septic shock.
It’s essential for medical professionals to use a reasonable standard of care to prevent sepsis and septic shock, and promptly identify and treat sepsis for good outcomes. When they fail to do so and a patient is injured or dies as a result, they might be held liable.
Anyone considering bringing a case against a medical professional or hospital for sepsis or septic shock must talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. To hold a health care provider responsible, you must able to prove that the health care provider acted negligently. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will be able to assess the strength of a potential case, investigate risk factors such as sanitation and health practices of the hospital, and find appropriate expert witnesses.
If you believe that you or a loved one developed sepsis or septic shock because of the negligence of a health care provider, let the skilled medical malpractice attorneys and lawyers at Lowenthal & Abrams help. Contact us now for a free consultation at 888-979-7298.