What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a clinical syndrome that is caused by the body’s biological response to an infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Over 1 million cases of sepsis occur each year in the United States, leading the Centers for Disease Control to declare it a “Medical Emergency.”
When you get an infection, your immune system releases chemicals into your blood to fight the infection. Sepsis occurs when these chemicals go beyond their normal limits and begin attacking healthy cells. This can cause body-wide inflammation, which can lead to impaired blood flow that damages the body’s organs by depriving them of nutrients and oxygen. If left untreated, sepsis can lead to organ failure and ultimately, the death of the patient.
What are the Symptoms of Sepsis?
- Rapid Breathing and Heart Rate
Many of these symptoms, such as fever and difficulty breathing, are often seen in other conditions, making sepsis hard to diagnose in its early stages. Different types of infections can lead to sepsis, including infections of the skin, lungs, urinary tract, abdomen (such as appendicitis), or another part of the body.
When Should I Seek Medical Attention For Sepsis?
Seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one begin displaying two or more of these warning signs:
- Probable or confirmed infection
- Fever above 100.4 F or below 95F.
- Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths a minute
- Heart rate higher than 90 beats a minute
- Altered Mental Status
While most sepsis cases at WMHS begin before the patient has arrived at the hospital, our staff is charged with knowing the symptoms in order to intervene as early as possible. “The sooner you act, the better outcome you can expect,” says Dr. Rameet Thapa, a physician in the Infectious Disease Department at WMHS. “We want to catch sepsis early. The body is trying to fight the infection and our role is to provide aid in that fight.”
What is the Treatment for Sepsis?
People with sepsis are usually treated in hospital intensive care units. Doctors will work to treat the infection, sustain the vital organs and prevent a drop in blood pressure. Often, doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Many patients receive oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids to maintain normal blood oxygen levels and blood pressure.
Other types of treatment, such as mechanical ventilation or kidney dialysis, may be necessary. Sometimes surgery is required to remove the source of the infection. Many other drugs, including vasopressors and corticosteroids, may be used to treat sepsis or to revive those who have gone into septic shock.
Western Maryland Health System has a system-wide and community-wide campaign to improve patient safety and our quality of care by improving our sepsis outcomes. In collaboration with the Maryland Patient Safety Center and the Maryland Hospital Association Improving Sepsis Survival campaign, our goal is to reduce our mortality rates from Sepsis through improved early recognition and treatment.