Sepsis is a dangerous medical condition that happens when your body’s chemical response to an infection off balance. It is also known by the name septicemia. The high levels of chemicals can damage your organs and require immediate medical attention. The chemicals that cause sepsis create inflammation, which can reduce blood flow and cause multiple organ failure.
The Three Stages of Sepsis
Septic shock occurs when your blood pressure drops dramatically because of sepsis. It can also cause organ failure. Generally, there are three recognized stages of sepsis.
In stage 1, high heart or respiratory rate, an infection, and high or low white blood cell counts can all indicate sepsis. If treated in stage 1, patients may avoid many of the adverse health outcomes associated with sepsis.
In stage 2, you can expect to see acute organ dysfunction with low blood pressure or decreased blood flow through internal organs. Patients may experience less urine output, difficulty breathing, and abdominal pain, among other symptoms. A transfer to a hospital for intensive care is likely for a nursing home resident with stage 2 sepsis.
In stage 3, you can experience septic shock. You may experience sepsis-induced hypertension and higher-than-normal lactate levels. Up to 50% of sepsis patients in stage 3 die.
Signs of Sepsis
A patient’s outlook severely improves with earlier medical intervention. However, signs of early-stage sepsis can be difficult to spot unless you have learned what the stages of sepsis are. Some signs of sepsis include:
- Less urine output
- Rapid heart rate or breathing
- Discolored skin
- Mental changes
- Decreased body temperature
- Respiratory distress
- Low body temperature
In addition to these signs of sepsis, laboratory testing can diagnose other clinical signs, such as low platelet counts and high lactic acid levels. Due to the high mortality rate, it is important to treat any sign of the condition very seriously and err on the side of early intervention.
In most cases, sepsis stems from an infection—either bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Patients with bacteremia, pneumonia, urinary infections, or GI tract infections are more at risk for sepsis than those with other types of infection.
There are many different tests available to diagnose and monitor sepsis. These tests include blood, urine, and secretions. X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs could identify signs of serious infection in various body parts, depending on the site of the suspected infection.
The treatment for sepsis will depend on what stage it is. Supplemental oxygen, IV fluids, and antibiotics can treat early signs of sepsis; these are available treatments for someone still under nursing home care. Doctors use blood tests to monitor treatment progress.
For more serious cases of sepsis, more medical intervention may be necessary to relieve the symptoms of the condition. This includes possible dialysis, use of a ventilator, or surgery to remove badly damaged tissue. For patients with low blood pressure, vasopressor medication could help to increase the patient’s blood pressure.
Risks and Complications
Generally, older people and very young children are at an increased risk for sepsis, especially if they have existing wounds, illnesses (including diabetes and cirrhosis), or an otherwise compromised immune system. Often, the patients who end up with sepsis have an infection that is not well-treated with antibiotics or corticosteroids. If sepsis is not caught and treated early, complications include:
- Organ failure
- Blood clot formation
- Higher risk for future infections
Health professionals estimate that 30% to 50% of the patients who advance to stage 3 sepsis will die from their illness. This rate could be slightly higher for septic shock in the elderly, who may already suffer from other serious medical conditions that require treatment.
Sepsis and Nursing Homes
Sepsis cases in nursing homes are a major problem, as many seniors are at an increased risk of developing the condition due to other chronic health conditions. Nursing homes should implement measures to keep residents safe—that include monitoring them for early signs of sepsis, cleaning rooms, and maintaining proper sterilization and handwashing procedures. If caregivers understand what the stages of sepsis are, this could potentially prevent many cases of sepsis within nursing home populations.
Bedsores, difficult-to-treat infections, and pneumonia are all precursors for sepsis. These conditions are also signs of nursing home neglect. You can reduce your loved one’s risk of developing sepsis by choosing a nursing home where the level of care is high. No one should have to worry about whether the care provided by a nursing home contributes to a loved one’s health problems.
You Can Contact an Attorney for Assistance
If a loved one suffered or died from sepsis while under the care of a nursing home, you may be able to receive compensation. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to discuss your potential legal case. If someone else’s lack of care contributed to your loved one developing sepsis, they should be held accountable.