The Importance of Early Recognition and Diagnosis of Sepsis

Sepsis is a very serious health condition that must be diagnosed and treated correctly and promptly. When this condition is not taken seriously or recognized quickly enough, individuals often experience organ failure, septic shock, or even death.

Doctors must take the proper steps to successfully perform an exam and assess a patient’s symptoms to determine if they have sepsis or another illness with similar symptoms. The longer that an individual goes without treatment, the more damage sepsis will do to the body, which could lead to a medical malpractice claim.

What is sepsis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sepsis is “the body’s extreme response to an infection.” Therefore, if a person has an infection, their body may react in a way that develops sepsis. This is a very life-threatening and dangerous medical condition that must be recognized and treated immediately.

What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis?

There are a variety of different signs and symptoms of sepsis that medical professionals should recognize at once:

  • Running a fever
  • Shivering or complaining of being cold
  • High heart rate
  • Weak pulse
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling sweaty
  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Feeling confused

Doctors must be aware of the early symptoms of sepsis to prevent it from becoming worse or turning into septic shock. This medical condition requires a proper medical assessment and diagnostic tests. If reasonable care is not provided and the condition is not recognized or treated quickly enough, the patient may suffer tremendously, experiencing damage to the organs or even passing away.

Who is most at risk for developing sepsis in Little Rock, AK?

Although any individual is at risk of developing sepsis when they have an infection, some groups of people are more at risk than others, including:

  • Elderly individuals who are over the age of 65
  • Individuals with weak immune systems
  • Infants and babies under the age of one
  • Individuals who had sepsis in the past
  • Those who were recently hospitalized
  • Those who were recently sick
  • People with diabetes, cancer, lung disease, kidney disease, and more

How common is this medical condition?

Even though sepsis can come from a small, minor infection, it has the ability to impact a person’s body and health enormously. The CDC states that every year, over 1.5 million individuals in the United States suffer from sepsis, and about 250,000 people die from this condition. This is very alarming and urged the organization to launch a program called Get Ahead of Sepsis, which was created to educate Americans and physicians about sepsis as well as prevent more people from dying from this deadly condition.

How do doctors diagnose sepsis?

Yale Medicine explains that there is no diagnostic test created specifically for sepsis. Healthcare workers, doctors, and nurses must use multiple diagnostic tests to determine if a person has sepsis. In addition, they must perform a medical assessment and analyze the patient’s symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis. Some of the different tests they may use are:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests usually show the doctor if you have signs of low or elevated white blood cells, organ dysfunction or failure, and lactic acid. If you have high white blood cells, this means you have an infection in your body, and if you have a low count of white blood cells, this means you are at risk of developing an infection soon. If you have signs of organ failure or dysfunction, you will most likely have high levels of enzymes or creatine in your blood. This will let your doctor know that you have sepsis. In addition, if there is lactic acid in your blood, this will indicate that you have an infection that needs to be treated right away before it turns into sepsis.
  • Urine sample: A urine sample will let your doctor know if you have a kidney infection, kidney stone, urinary tract infection, or any other kidney issues that can cause sepsis. Therefore, you will likely be asked to give a sample of your urine for the doctor to test.
  • Blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate tests: Other techniques that the doctor will use to look for signs of sepsis are checking your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and breathing rate. The reason for this is because a high heart rate, high blood pressure, fevers, and difficulty breathing are four early signs that indicate a person has sepsis.

Why is early recognition and prompt medical intervention important in diagnosing sepsis?

Early recognition and prompt medical intervention is important in diagnosing sepsis because the sooner that this condition is recognized and treated, the more likely the person will survive and experience a full recovery from the condition. When a person develops sepsis or septic shock, they are typically moved to the intensive care unit because of how dangerous this condition can become. Therefore, they need close medical attention, more supportive care, and around-the-clock monitoring.

An article published in the American Academy of Family Physicians mentions that sepsis should be recognized and treated within the first six hours to decrease the chances of “in-hospital mortality.” The mortality rate for severe sepsis is around 25% to 30%, but it increases to 40% to 70% once the patient’s condition progresses to septic shock. Early treatment is highly recommended when a patient presents symptoms of sepsis.

If you believe that your or a loved one’s sepsis was undiagnosed or left untreated for too long, please reach out to the Little Rock, AK, medical malpractice lawyers at Bailey & Greer, PLLC today. Our attorneys know that doctors are not perfect, but we believe that they have a duty to provide reasonable care quickly to patients who are suffering from sepsis. Therefore, if your doctor did not use their knowledge or skills to properly diagnose and treat your medical condition, this is considered to be negligence. Our team will investigate what happened to you, help you collect evidence to support your side of the story, and hire medical experts to determine if your sepsis complications were due to negligent behavior. Please call our office or fill out our contact form to get started today.