Improvement in Sepsis Care Starts With Awareness

Freedigitalphotos.net/SiraAnamwong
Freedigitalphotos.net/SiraAnamwong

Sepsis has gained some notoriety lately, with the passing of stars like Christopher Reeves, Robert Palmer and more recently Patty Davis. However, it appears that a vast majority of people don’t know what it is or the devastating effects it can have in both the short- and long-term of a patient. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations have also taken notice and are working feverishly to have improvement in sepsis care a priority for all healthcare staff.

On the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the explain that, “Sepsis is a complication caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It is difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. Patients who develop sepsis have an increased risk of complications and death and face higher healthcare costs and longer treatment.” This infection, whether it be bacteria, viral or some other invasive organism, gets into the blood or soft tissue and begins poisoning its victim.

Some of the symptoms that accompany this poisoning are very general and can be pushed aside as being related to alternative ailments, or overstatements from a patient. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • High fever with chills
  • Extreme pain, possibly throughout the entire body
  • Extended periods of high heartrate
Freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles
Freedigitalphotos.net/StuartMiles

As you might see, patients with other conditions may also have a similar set of symptoms, and thus clinicians may not make it a priority to assess that patient. This can be a deadly decision due to the fact that every hour that a sepsis infection is allowed to go unabated, the change of survival drops by 7.6%. This is because the fight the body is waging on the infection causes inflammation in muscles, tissue and the brain, organ failure, inability for kidneys and liver to work correctly, and even hypothermia. The body will begin to slowly shut down without proper treatment.

One way that hospitals, especially emergency departments, have changed their way of possibly passing over a sepsis patient has been with technology and software. Obviously, most medical facilities have moved as far away from manual tracking of patients as possible, but they have also implemented software that helps to categorize patients at intake and to alert healthcare staff if the patient is a potential candidate and to pull that patient aside for more assessments. The tests for sepsis usually consist of:

  • Blood test to look for the infection
  • Urine test to look for the infection
  • Testing of open wound for the infection
  • Imaging scans for visual conformation

A broad-spectrum antibiotic will be administered until a more specific antibiotic can be given for the particular strain of infection can be identified. Intravenous fluids help to keep the body hydrated and constant care must be given to the patient. The means that the patient must spend time in the ICU, which can be just a couple of days to several weeks, depending on the overall health and other underlying conditions of the patients.

Freedigitalphoto.net/RenjithKrishnar
Freedigitalphoto.net/RenjithKrishnar

All of the specialized care and longevity of the infection helps to show just how quickly the expenses and resources can add up to take care of just one patient. In fact, sepsis is the most costly condition on the healthcare system, with an estimated price tag of $23.6 billion in 2014, and projected to be higher each subsequent year. Hospitals are trying to find every way possible to solve the problem of improvement to sepsis care and lower the demands placed on them, as well as the effects that target a patient. The steps forward with software technology, and the overall awareness that healthcare organizations are making are in the right direction, but helping to inform the public and finding better ways to treat sepsis are others that can have long lasting effects toward a more positive and shorter recovery time.