CDC: Sepsis Starts With Vague Symptoms but Is a Medical Emergency

Sepsis is the body’s attempt to overcome an infection. It used to be referred to misleadingly as a bloodstream infection or “blood poisoning,” implying that sepsis was simply an infection the body could not handle. It’s not. It’s an over-enthusiastic immune response to an infection that causes inflammation and tissue damage. It can lead to shock, damage requiring amputation, organ failure, and even death.

Death can be the result of doctors failing to take aggressive steps when they suspect sepsis.

Immediate, aggressive treatment is necessary to reduce the chance of death

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which was reported at a recent meeting of the American Thoracic Society, confirmed that the steps for treating sepsis do work — and laid out the cost of delay. The researchers looked at outcomes in nearly 50,000 New York patients who were treated under “Rory’s Regulations,” named after 12-year-old Rory Staunton, who wrongfully died from sepsis.

The results were surprising: not only did they find that the steps improved outcomes but they also learned that faster is better. The odds of a patient dying went up by 4 percent every hour antibiotics and other sepsis treatment is delayed. In other words: minutes count when treating the condition.

How can we improve the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis?

Doctors need to do their jobs.

Last year, the CDC initiated a campaign to help patients recognize the symptoms of sepsis. Whenever patients have infections that seem to be getting worse, they need to seek treatment on an emergency basis. Further, the agency recommends that patients ask their doctors directly, “Could this be sepsis?” This is not a fair or proper way to fix diagnosis. Properly trained and experienced physicians must do their jobs to keep patients safe.

Do patients really need to prompt their doctors to look for sepsis? Unfortunately, Rory Staunton died from lack of appropriate care. Now, however, physicians and hospitals should be aware that these treatment steps are evidence-based.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered due to a misdiagnosis, a failure to diagnose, or poor treatment at a hospital emergency room, please reach out to an attorney. At Curtis & Lucero, we would be happy to answer your questions in a free initial consultation.