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The Causes and Symptoms of Sepsis

29 July 2019

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Spotting the earliest signs and symptoms of sepsis can be crucial to survival rates. Sepsis, or blood poisoning as it is also known as, happens when the body’s immune system attacks its own organs and tissues, as a reaction to an infection or injury. It is essential to treat sepsis as early as possible to avoid organ failure and even death. Around 4 in 10 people who develop sepsis will sadly die if their symptoms aren’t recognised and treated at the earliest opportunity.

Spotting Sepsis Symptoms

Sepsis can be difficult to spot, as initially the symptoms can present themselves in the form of flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. The UK Sepsis Trust states that it is important to seek urgent medical attention if you, or someone around you, develops any of the below symptoms:

Slurred speech or confusion
Extreme shivering or muscle pain
Passing no urine (in a day)
Severe breathlessness
It feels like you’re going to die
Skin is mottled or discoloured

Three stages of a sepsis infection

There are three main stages of a sepsis infection:

  1. Sepsis
  2. Severe sepsis
  3. Septic shock

The three stages show different signs and symptoms including:

1. Sepsis Symptoms

  • A heart rate of above 90 bpm
  • A breathing rate of more than 20 breaths per minute
  • A fever with a body temperature of above 38 Celsius
  • A chill with a body temperature below 36 Celsius

2. Severe Sepsis Symptoms

Severe sepsis is the result of organ failure and presents itself in the form of:

  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Issues with breathing
  • Mental impairment
  • Extreme weakness
  • Discolouration of the skin
  • Low platelet count
  • Extreme chills
  • Unconsciousness

3. Septic Shock symptoms

Septic shock can be identified when the person is displaying two or more of the above symptoms, along with very low blood pressure.

Causes of Sepsis

Sepsis can happen as the result of:

  • A urinary tract infection
  • A chest infection which has caused pneumonia
  • An infected cut or bite
  • A leg ulcer or cellulitis
  • A wound from trauma or surgery
  • A problem in the abdomen, such as a burst ulcer or hole in the bowel
  • Bacterial infections such as MRSA, e-coli and C diff.

Sepsis caused due to medical negligence

It is possible to develop sepsis as a result of negligent medical treatment. Common ways in which sepsis can be caused due to medical negligence include:

MRSA Infection:

MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterial infection that is resistant to a lot of widely used antibiotics. People staying in hospital are susceptible to an MRSA infection, as the bacteria can enter the body through their feeding tube, a drip into a vein, through a urinary catheter or via a wound or burn. An MRSA infection can lead to sepsis and can be caused through the negligence of the hospital if there has been a failure to:

  • Sanitise medical instruments that have been in contact with MRSA.
  • Properly cover open wounds.
  • Screen the patient for MRSA.
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces.
  • Wash hands leading to contamination.

Failure of medical practitioners’ to spot the earliest signs of sepsis

If a medical practitioner has failed to spot the earliest signs and symptoms of sepsis the effects can be devastating. If symptoms are spotted straight away then chances of survival are high, as the infection can be treated with antibiotics. If warning signs of sepsis are missed victims may be left to suffer with lifelong physical and mental issues, such as organ dysfunction, ongoing chronic pain, cognitive impairment and PTSD. You may have received negligent treatment if:

  • Your doctor failed to diagnose or incorrectly diagnose sepsis.
  • Treatment of sepsis was delayed
  • Referral to hospital was delayed

If you believe that you, or a loved one, have suffered due to the consequences of late or misdiagnosis of sepsis then you could be entitled to make a compensation. Speak to a member of our expert medical negligence claims team today to find out more.

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