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Hospital Infections Study Blames Sepsis for Deaths

476400937According to new research into the grave effects of hospital infections, sepsis may account for half of all hospital deaths. Sepsis is an autoimmune response triggered by an infection. When the body releases chemicals to fight the infection, it also begins to target the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation that can lead to failure of multiple organ systems.

JAMA research attributes half of all hospital deaths to sepsis

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently reported that sepsis accounts for roughly 1 out of every 2 hospital deaths. Its report is based on two independent cohorts – one comprising nearly a half million adults who had overnight, nonobstetrical hospitalizations in Kaiser Permanente’s hospitals in Northern California between 2010 and 2012, and the other using a nationwide sample of 6.5 million adult hospitalizations in 2010.

The researchers found that most sepsis patients were already suffering from the condition when they were admitted to the hospital. But they also found that it was the patients who initially showed minor cases of sepsis who most often died from it. The researchers recommended improving the standardized care for patients with seemingly mild sepsis. The attention until now has been placed on patients with severe sepsis, leaving the relatively mild cases overlooked and undertreated.

Prompt treatment of sepsis saves lives

Sepsis needs to be treated immediately and aggressively. If hospital staff treat mild cases early with antibiotics and lots of intravenous fluids, the patients’ chances of survival are much improved.

If not promptly treated, sepsis can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure and later, death.

The signs of sepsis are:

  • Fever over 101.3 or a temperature below 95 degrees
  • Heart rate over 90 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate over 20 breaths per minute
  • Infection

Once sepsis progresses to severe sepsis, which can involve organ failure, signs can include:

  • Significant decrease in amount of urine
  • Changes in mental state
  • Decreased platelets
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal heart function
  • Pain in the abdomen

Septic shock, the most dangerous and advanced state of sepsis, involves signs of severe sepsis along with extremely low blood pressure that does not improve with extra fluids. About 50 percent of the people who develop septic shock die from it.

Sepsis needs to be treated immediately

When sepsis is not treated in its early stages, the complications can lead to blood clots, organ failure, amputations, and even death.

Even non-fatal sepsis cases can be completely life-altering. For example, in 2011, a Sacramento hospital agreed to pay a $10 million settlement to a 2-year-old girl who had parts of all four limbs amputated due to sepsis after a wait in the emergency room. The girl’s parents brought her in with a fever and skin discoloration and repeatedly begged hospital staff to treat her. The triage workers kept telling them to wait and it was five hours before the girl was seen by a doctor. In that time, her parents were afraid she was going to die in the waiting room. She was flown to another hospital where her blood infection was diagnosed and parts of each of her arms and legs were amputated. The girl will need life-long therapy, prosthetics, and wheelchairs.