Sepsis is a Deadly Yet Preventable Infection

The number of U.S. cases of sepsis, a gravely serious infection, has been relatively flat over recent years.  Unfortunately, the number of people in this country killed by this preventable infection is growing.

As many as 1 million Americans are hospitalized for sepsis and at least 210,000 die from sepsis each year, according to estimates.  Sepsis is an infection of the blood that attacks tissues and organs.  It is almost always life-threatening.

Sepsis Accounts for 15 Percent of Hospital Patient Deaths

According to a new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, sepsis consistently accounted for about 6 percent of all U.S. hospitalizations each year between 2009 and 2014.  During that time sepsis was responsible for 15 percent of hospital patient deaths. In 2014, the researchers identified 270,000 patients who died from sepsis.

Prior estimates pegged the number of in-hospital patient deaths from sepsis at 10 percent, so the increase found in this research was a surprise.  The popular notion was the number of sepsis cases was rising but sepsis deaths were falling.

How do the researchers explain their findings?  They relied on hospitals’ clinical data rather than claims data included in hospital patient records.  Claims data outlines what medical services are provided and then submitted to insurance companies for payment.  Clinical data is more specific as to patient symptoms, vital signs, etc., which provide a more in-depth picture of a patient’s health history.

So, with more scrutiny, the researchers were able to find a truer account (and higher number) of people who die from sepsis in hospitals every year.  This is important to remember given that sepsis is easily diagnosed and preventable.

Sepsis Diagnosed with Blood Test

Diagnosing sepsis starts with a blood test.  If test results are misdiagnosed or minimized, and the patient’s sepsis goes untreated, that patient may needlessly die.

Many in the medical profession have in recent years called for uniform sepsis diagnostic and treatment protocols to guard against serious medical errors.  As the new research indicates, such calls should be heeded.  An estimated 30 percent of all sepsis deaths are preventable.  That’s at least 70,000 people each year.

Hospital patients should always receive a standard level of care.  Medical errors below that level that cause patient fatalities are always unacceptable.

If you were seriously injured or had a family member die while in the hospital and you believe mistakes in care were responsible, consult and experienced medical malpractice attorney.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog October 6, 2017