According to Mayo Clinic, sepsis is a serious complication of an infection that can be life-threatening. Sepsis occurs when your body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection. These chemicals, in turn, trigger inflammation throughout the body that can lead to organ failure. It is important to determine the source of the infection when treating sepsis. In the elderly, common sources of infection that can lead to sepsis are bedsores (decubiti, pressure ulcers), urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and pneumonia. Infected bedsores can result in sepsis when the infection in the wound spreads to the bloodstream (bacteremia).
Additionally, if sepsis progresses to septic shock, blood pressure drops dramatically and the person may die. Early treatment of sepsis, usually with antibiotics and intravenous fluids, improves chances for survival.
Many in the medical profession view sepsis as a three stage process: 1) sepsis; 2) severe sepsis; and 3) septic shock. As with most medical conditions, it is important for the nursing and medical staff to be vigilant in recognizing signs and symptoms of sepsis, particularly in the elderly, since early detection gives patients/residents a much better chance of survival.
Signs of sepsis include:
- a fever of above 101.3 F;
- heart rate above 90 beats per minute
- respiratory rate of higher than 20 beats per minute
- probable or confirmed source of infection (ie. bedsores [decubiti, pressure ulcers]) or urinary tract infection)
If the condition progresses to severe sepsis, indicators of organ failure will be present such as a change in mental status, shortness of breath and/or decrease in platelet count. If low blood pressure is added to the equation, the likely diagnosis would be septic shock.
Unfortunately due to the aging population and other factors, the incidence of sepsis in the United States is on the rise. If you or a loved one has suffered from bedsores or sepsis due to the neglect of medical personnel, please contact the Medical Malpractice and Nursing Home Attorneys at Gallivan & Gallivan for a free consultation.