What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is an extremely serious condition which is caused by an overwhelming immune response to infection. The infection prompts the body to release chemicals but the chemicals themselves cause widespread inflammation which can fatally damage the organs.
Sepsis can also cause the blood to clot which then reduces blood flow to limbs and internal organs. In severe cases, one or more organs fail. In the worst cases, infection leads to a life-threatening drop in blood pressure, called septic shock. This can quickly lead to the failure of several organs including the lungs, liver and kidney, causing death
How will I know?
Common symptoms include:
• High temperature
• High pulse rate
• Low blood pressure
• Mottling of skin
Who can get it?
• Anyone. Old or young. A minor cut, scrape or a bug bite can set off the deadly cascade
Why is it so dangerous?
• Every hour raises the risk of death by eight percent if the sepsis is untreated
• Vital to get treated as soon as possible
• At least 50 percent of septic shock patients do not survive
How many people are affected?
• Sepsis is the leading pediatric killer worldwide
• Sepsis affects at least 750,000 people each year
• Approximately 550 people die every day in the U.S.
How is sepsis treated?
People with sepsis are generally treated in hospital intensive care units. The first step is often treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, these are medicines that kill many types of bacteria. Once lab tests identify the infectious agent doctors will treat the infection with specifically targeted antibiotics. In order to maintain normal blood oxygen levels it may be necessary for the patient to receive oxygen and intravenous fluids. If a patient is in severe sepsis then treatment such as mechanical ventilation or kidney dialysis may be necessary. If there is a localized infection surgery is often required. Sadly, despite years of research, scientists have not yet been able to develop a medicine that targets the aggressive immune response that characterizes sepsis.
Long-term effects of sepsis
Many people who suffer severe sepsis and survive recover completely and live a normal life. Some, however, may not make a complete recovery and there is some evidence that if someone suffers from severe sepsis their immune system is weakened and therefore they are more vulnerable to future infection.
The cost of sepsis
Treatment of severe sepsis involves a long stay in the intensive care unit which incurs high costs. It costs the United States $17 billion a year to treat sepsis.