Sepsis is a life-threatening condition and an extreme response to an infection in the body. Some people have a higher risk of suffering from sepsis than others, such as nursing home residents and people with chronic illness. Additionally, medical negligence and nursing home negligence can raise someone’s chances of developing one of the three stages of sepsis. But what are the 3 stages of sepsis? Chicago’s best nursing home negligence attorneys explain below.
If you or someone you love has suffered severe sepsis due to a medical professional’s negligence, you may have grounds to sue and recover significant financial compensation. For more information, call Curcio Law Offices at 312-321-1111 today.
What is Sepsis?
In short, sepsis is a life-threatening medical emergency. Without immediate medical attention, sufferers can go into septic shock and possibly even die. Sepsis begins when a person has a pre-existing infection that triggers major inflammation throughout the body. The body’s response to an infection essentially goes into overdrive, which can lead to organ failure and a host of other life-threatening health consequences.
What Causes Sepsis?
Basically, any type of infection in the body – whether it’s viral, bacterial, or fungal – can lead to sepsis, especially in elderly people and those with compromised immune systems. Examples of infections that can trigger sepsis are:
- UTI’s and kidney infections
- Kidney disease
- Respiratory viruses, such as the flu or COVID-19, that lead to pneumonia
- Bacteremia, which is basically blood poisoning
- Abdominal infections
- MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which is a type of bacterial infection that is resistant to some types of antibiotics
- Severe or third-degree skin burns
- Catheter infections
A sepsis diagnosis can occur naturally from a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, or it can be the result of medical malpractice. For example, let’s say you’re in the hospital recovering from surgery and your medical team fails to clean your incisions regularly and change the dressings. Because of their negligence, you develop an infection in your incision sites. You tell your nurses that you think you may have an infection, and they do very little to improve the infection. Your immune system notices that there’s an infection happening, and it releases white blood cells, antibodies, and other life-saving chemicals in order to fight off the infection. The infection continues to spread, sending your immune system into overdrive, and eventually leads to sepsis. Situations like this certainly warrant legal action from an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
Sepsis Risk Factors
Some people have a higher risk of developing sepsis and septic shock than others, including:
- Nursing home residents and elderly people in general
- Those with a weakened immune system
- Those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, AIDS, cancer, etc.
- People who need breathing tubes or catheters
- Newborns (doctors refer to this as neonatal sepsis)
- People who take antibiotics or steroids for long periods of time
- People who have to stay in the hospital or the intensive care unit (ICU) for a long time
- Sepsis survivors
How Many Americans Suffer From Sepsis Every Year?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1.7 million Americans receive a sepsis diagnosis every year, and 350,000 of those sepsis sufferers die. In general, those over 65 years old have an increased risk of sepsis and septic shock compared to the rest of the American population. This risk is much higher for those over the age of 85. In fact, those over age 85 are 5 times more likely to die from severe sepsis than those ages 65 to 74.
Sepsis symptoms often vary depending on which of the three stages of sepsis the patient is enduring. We will further break down the three stages of sepsis below, but these are the most common signs and symptoms:
- Fever or low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Racing heart
- Hypotension, also known as low blood pressure (systolic blood pressure less than 100 mm Hg)
- Excess sweating
- Breathlessness, difficulty breathing, or hyperventilation
- Chronic pain
- Disorientation and confusion
- Abnormal blood clotting
- High levels of lactic acid in the blood which indicates that the body isn’t using much oxygen
Symptoms of Septic Shock
Septic shock symptoms are similar to regular sepsis symptoms. Patients may experience:
- Extremely low blood pressure (systolic blood pressure less than 65 mm Hg)
- Racing heart
- Rash on the skin
- Little to no urine production
- Limbs that are pale and cold
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and confusion
- Fever or hypothermia
- Chills and shaking
- High levels of lactic acid in the blood
What Are The 3 Stages of Sepsis?
A doctor will typically diagnose a sepsis patient through a blood test and the symptoms that they’re exhibiting. Sepsis occurs in three stages. But what are the 3 stages of sepsis?
The first stage of sepsis provides doctors with the best chance of saving the patient’s life. Meanwhile, the most severe stage of sepsis is typically fatal. That’s why early diagnosis and early treatment is key for survival.
If you believe that you or your loved one’s case of sepsis was poorly treated or poorly managed by medical professionals, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. Additionally, if you believe that you or your loved one’s case of sepsis or septic shock was completely avoidable with the right team of medical professionals, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. Chicago medical malpractice attorneys can carefully review your case and help you determine the best course of legal action.
The first stage of sepsis can be difficult to identify because some of the symptoms are the same as whatever known infection is happening in the body. So the patient may have fever, chills, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, etc. The first stage of sepsis is sometimes referred to as Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) because it’s a subcategory of this condition.
SIRS only turns into sepsis when some kind of infection is already happening in the body. In order to receive a SIRS diagnosis, the patient must have at least two of the following health issues:
- A body temperature that’s above 100.4°F or a temperature below 96.8°F
- A heart rate that’s above 90 BPM
- More than 20 breaths per minute
- Less than 32 mm Hg of arterial carbon dioxide tension
- A high level of white blood cells in the blood
With timely and correct medical care, patients can certainly recover from the first stage of sepsis. In fact, a study claims that the mortality rate for SIRS is only 7%.
Stage two is referred to as severe sepsis and is categorized by life-threatening organ dysfunction. In other words, if your vital organs are showing signs of shutting down through blood tests, you are likely enduring the severe stage of sepsis. Severe sepsis occurs with symptoms like decreased blood flow, extremely low blood pressure, decreased urine production, and sudden changes in mental state.
Stage 3 is basically septic shock. This is the last and most deadly stage of sepsis. The mortality rate for severe sepsis and septic shock is over 50%, according to this study. Severe cases of septic shock are characterized by hypotension, decreased blood flow, high lactate levels, hypothermia, and barely any urine production. The lack of blood circulation is ultimately what causes organ failure and then death.
It is crucial for doctors to diagnose and treat sepsis in its early stages. Patients diagnosed and treated for Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) in a timely manner can recover within a few days or a few weeks. But once symptoms of septic shock begin to appear, the chances of the patient’s survival drops off significantly. In order to treat sepsis, doctors may give patients:
- Antibiotics in order to fight off initial infection.
- IV Fluids in order to prevent dehydration and severe hypotension.
- Steroids in order to control the inflammation response in the body.
- Vasopressors which can increase blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels.
- IV Pain Medications to reduce chronic pain levels.
Treatment for severe sepsis and septic shock requires more intense medical interventions. For example, if the patient is struggling to breathe or has low oxygen levels in the blood, they may require a breathing tube. If the patient’s kidneys are starting to shut down, they may need kidney dialysis, which helps filter waste, salt, and water from the bloodstream. Healthy kidneys perform all those functions on their own. In some cases of severe sepsis, the patient may need surgery in order to remove the source of infection in the body.
What is Post Sepsis Syndrome?
Even if a patient recovers from one of the three stages of sepsis, they may not be out of the woods. There is a condition called Post Sepsis Syndrome (PSS) which can affect up to 50% of survivors, according to Sepsis Alliance. PSS is characterized by a set of physical and mental symptoms following one of the three stages of sepsis. These symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic joint or muscle pain
- Limb swelling
- Recurrent cases of sepsis
- Lack of appetite
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
- Poor organ function
- PTSD relating to the health emergency which can cause panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, hallucinations, etc.
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- A major drop in self-confidence
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Frequent confusion
Nursing Home Abuse and Sepsis
You may be wondering: how is nursing home negligence connected to cases of sepsis? Firstly, elderly people have decreased immune system functions compared to the rest of the younger population. The immune system, as we all know, is responsible for fighting off all types of infection. The immune system gets tired as we get older, causing some elderly residents to get sick more often.
Secondly, nursing home abuse and neglect can cause a wide variety of infections such as bedsores, UTI’s, kidney infections, blood poisoning, and so much more. If abuse or neglect caused one of these types of infections, further neglect (and therefore lack of medical treatment) can easily lead to sepsis and septic shock.
Damages for Sepsis and Septic Shock
People in nursing homes or hospitals whose cases of sepsis are caused by negligence can file a lawsuit and recover financial compensation for:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future rehabilitative bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity if the patient develops PSS which prevents them from fulfilling some of their previous job duties
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress from the actual sepsis event and PSS
- Counseling costs for emotional distress issues
- Permanent disability
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses if septic shock leads to wrongful death
Call a Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer at Curcio Law Offices Today
If you or someone you love has suffered from sepsis or septic shock due to medical malpractice or nursing home abuse, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. The legal team at Curcio Law Offices has decades of combined experience in handling medical malpractice and nursing home abuse cases of all kinds. We are passionate about fighting for the justice of every nursing home resident and sepsis victim. To schedule a free consultation with us, call 312-321-1111 today.