A New Focus On Sepsis Cases Follows Tragic Death

Sepsis is a leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals. Part of the problem in treating or preventing sepsis is that the early signs of the ailment are similar to other conditions such as the flu or a cold. A failure to diagnose the problem and begin aggressive treatment can result in severely low blood pressure, shock, organ failure and, potentially, death. If the early signs are ignored or attributed to a less severe condition, the results are often tragic. The death of a 12-year-old boy in New York brought significant attention to the issue. New York officials are now on the verge of instating new programs to combat sepsis deaths.

For more than 10 years, doctors, medical researchers, hospitals and patient advocates have worked to identify methods of identifying and treating sepsis. The recommendations of that group have been successful, where implemented, in reducing death rates. According to a recent paper on the treatment guidelines of the condition, the key to preventing sepsis deaths is to suspect the condition early and be watchful for signs such as an elevated heart rate and fever.

There is good reason for medical professionals to be on the lookout for sepsis. The condition is the most common cause of death in intensive care units. Treatment of the condition includes the use of antibiotics and fluids. The treatment is relatively simple, but must be begun early on to be truly effective. When the recommended guidelines are followed, the likelihood of the condition turning fatal is reduced by 40 percent.

If New York hospitals are successful in reducing sepsis deaths, it could save many lives. A successful program in one area often leads to adoption of that program in other areas. Many hospitals are currently not following the accepted guidelines regarding treatment of sepsis. This program may force more facilities to augment their training and focus on this dangerous condition.

Source: The New York Times, “One Boy’s Death Moves State to Action to Prevent Others,” by Jim Dwyer, 20 December 2012