The three stages of sepsis include sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person’s body goes into overdrive in response to an infection. Nursing home patients may experience any of these stages of sepsis as a result of caregiver neglect.
When people sustain injuries, specific chemicals in a person’s immune system release into the bloodstream in order to fight an infection. These chemicals can cause severe inflammation if they increase rapidly, leading to an emergency and a life-threatening situation. Each year, approximately 1.5 million people receive a diagnosis for sepsis, which kills more than 250,000 yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of Sepsis
Oftentimes, sepsis can occur after a medical procedure or any type of infection. Symptoms of sepsis may include the following:
- A high fever above 101 degrees or a low temperature below 96.8 degrees.
- A heart rate faster than 90 beats per minute.
- A breathing rate faster than 20 breaths per minute.
- Probable or confirmed infection.
When a patient has two or more of these symptoms, a diagnosis of sepsis usually occurs. Sepsis can worsen if not treated immediately.
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The second stage of the three states of sepsis, severe sepsis occurs if the original sepsis remains untreated or remains unresponsive to treatments. Severe sepsis will occur when the sepsis is affecting the function of an organ. One or more of the following symptoms must present itself in order to confirm a severe sepsis diagnosis:
- Decreased urination.
- Changes in mental ability.
- Patches of discolored skin.
- Low platelet (blood-clotting cells) count.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Abnormal heart functions.
- Chills due to low body temperature.
- Extreme weakness.
- Blueish discoloration of the lips, fingers, or toes.
Without medical attention, severe sepsis could lead to septic shock.
Symptoms of septic shock are similar to those of severe sepsis, but they also include a significant drop in blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure can lead to heart failure, stroke, failure of other organs, respiratory failure, and even death. In their report from the January 2014 edition of the journal, Virulence, researchers believe that the inflammation resulting from sepsis in the body actually causes tiny blood clots to form, which block oxygen and nutrients from reaching organs, causing decreased function or failure.
Causes of Sepsis and Septic Shock
Any infection in any person can act as the catalyst that begins sepsis. Any bacterial, fungal, or viral infection can cause sepsis, but this condition typically originates from lung infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, abdominal infections, digestive system infections, or reproductive system infections.
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Testing for Sepsis
Some diagnostic tests to confirm sepsis include testing for:
- Bacteria in the blood.
- Excess waste products in the blood.
- Blood clotting issues due to low platelet count.
- Abnormal liver function.
- Abnormal kidney function.
- Decreased amounts of oxygen.
- Electrolyte imbalances.
If you believe your elderly loved one needs testing for sepsis to determine if they are in one of the three stages of sepsis, you can advocate for them by speaking to their doctor.
Treatments for Sepsis
Early treatment and discovery of sepsis lead to a greater likelihood of recovery. After a diagnosis of sepsis, the patient usually immediately receives admittance to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital. Some medications used to treat sepsis include intravenous antibiotics, vasopressor medications, insulin, and corticosteroids. Doctors prescribe plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, hydrate organs, and increase blood pressure. A respirator may assist with breathing challenges. In some severe cases, patients may require surgery to remove any source of infection from a wound.
Risk Factors for Sepsis
Age accounts for one of the greatest risk factors for the three stages of sepsis: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. With increased age comes a decrease in immune system functions, which can lead to sepsis. Recovering from sepsis or septic shock also leaves the patient with a higher chance of adverse long-term outcomes, such as developing ongoing cognitive and functional impairments that may lead to death later.
Contacting a Nursing Home Lawyer
Two main ways to prevent sepsis including prevention and transmission of infections and prevention of evolution of infection into sepsis, according to the World Health Organization.
If you believe your elderly loved one suffered from sepsis, severe sepsis, or septic shock due to a nursing home’s negligence, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your legal rights to compensation.