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Sepsis is the leading cause of death from infection

Posted: 5:21 AM, Jul 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-23 06:21:38-04

Here is something that may surprise you about sepsis, it is the leading cause of death from infection.  

Sepsis is more deadly than prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined, with approximately 1.5 million cases annually.  It’s the number one cause of non-cardiac deaths in intensive care units, and the eleventh leading cause of death overall. 

According to the CDC, sepsis kills 250,000 Americans every year.  Yet many of us have never even heard of it. 

Sepsis happens when bacteria enters your bloodstream and is often introduced to the body through wounds, such as burns, cuts, and scrapes. It can also lead to organ dysfunction and potentially death. 

"It is life-threatening because once it gets into your blood, you have a very short time frame in which to have interventions on board. Those interventions include a 3 hours bundle including fluids, antibiotics, and blood tests that need to be run in order to detect if further interventions are required," said Corpus Christi Medical Center Vice President of Quality Management Joy Conda. 

Everyone is at risk for sepsis. More than 45 percent of Americans don’t know what sepsis is and why it can be so deadly and so common. 

"Signs and symptoms – shivering, fever, feeling cold, extreme pain, general discomfort, pale or discolored skin, sleepy, difficult to rouse, and confused," said Conda. 

If it’s caught early enough, that can prevent a lot of trouble down the road. That’s why the Corpus Christi Medical Center is doing what they can to raise awareness about sepsis. 

"It is important that we get the message out because a lot of patients that come to the ED already have Sepsis. We need to have people educated to seek medical assistance as soon as possible so when they come to the emergency department, we can screen them for Sepsis, and then start on boarding the bundle elements," said Conda. 

Sepsis is a medical emergency and early identification is the key. Corpus Christi Medical Center has implemented initiatives to detect sepsis even earlier and treat it more quickly. 

Through data analytics, training and dedicated healthcare professionals, CCMC is tacking the challenge.  

The hospital is:

  • Dedicated to increasing public awareness of sepsis and finding new ways to predict sepsis earlier 
  • Utilizing data to identify sepsis earlier. This is vitally important because detecting sepsis earlier helps patients avoid complications and saves lives. 
  • Utilizing an algorithm to continuously collect and analyze vital signs, labs, nursing surveillance reports and other data. 
  • Utilizing a new device for EDs. The noninvasive Technology to monitor hemodynamic factors, giving clinicians immediate insight into a patient’s condition 

Early identification and treatment are key to improved outcomes. Corpus Christi Medical Center has sepsis identification and treatment protocols in place to identify patients with sepsis as soon as they arrive in the emergency room.  

What is Sepsis? 
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Not everyone who has an infection will develop sepsis, yet everyone with sepsis has an infection. Sepsis occurs when the body responds to an infection by releasing chemical agents called toxins into the bloodstream. 

These toxins trigger inflammation throughout the body that can damage multiple organ systems. If sepsis becomes severe, it progresses to septic shock in which blood pressure drops dramatically and organs don’t get enough oxygen to continue to function. 

Today’s best science dictates the earliest recognition of these changes to prevent death, but the risk is still substantial. 

Our computer systems are helping us to develop real-time monitoring to predict who will get sepsis and intervene early.  We believe this will be the new standard of care in the near future. 

Who can get sepsis?
Anyone can develop sepsis. The home care population embodies the high risks for sepsis – elderly, medically fragile children and adults, conditions especially susceptible to infection and known sepsis risk. 

For patients who come to the hospital with sepsis or are at risk, we are bringing the tools of the best science, computerized monitoring, and "big data" to make sure that we stop sepsis early today and even predict and prevent sepsis tomorrow. 

What are the symptoms of sepsis? 

If an infection occurs anywhere – on the patient’s skin, in the urinary tract, or in the lungs, as with pneumonia – patients have an increased risk for developing sepsis. This is one reason why it is important to seek care from a physician immediately if you have signs of an infection that is worsening. Remember, most people who have and infection will never develop sepsis, but everyone with sepsis has an infection. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the warning signs of sepsis include: 

S – Shivering, fever or feeling very cold
E – Extreme pain or general discomfort
P – Pale or discolored skin
S – Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
I – "I feel like I might die"
S -Short of breath 

How is sepsis treated?
The key is to assess patients as early as possible. If they are presenting with any potentially "septic" symptoms, such as fever, chills, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, rash or disorientation, it’s important to closely monitor their hemodynamic status, begin early antimicrobials, run lab work, and continue to frequently reassess their condition to identify even the most subtle of changes. 

Sepsis awareness is important, because early detection is critical to survival. Each hour antibiotic administration is delayed, the risk of death increases by eight percent. If sepsis is suspected, antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids are administered as soon as possible. 

Patients also may be given oxygen and other supportive therapy. Sometimes, surgery is performed to remove tissue damaged by the infection.  

However, the key is early detection. Unlike many other conditions, there is a "point of no return" in the progression of sepsis after which survival decreases drastically. Recognizing the tell-tale signs of sepsis and seeking care immediately is the key to survival.