September is Sepsis Awareness Month. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can be acquired during a hospital stay and is preventable.
Sepsis kills approximately 270,000 people in the United States every year, according to the Sepsis Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce sepsis deaths and is the driving force behind Sepsis Awareness Month.
Sepsis is not an infection but a body’s response to an infection. The response is so drastic, however, that it can prove deadly. It’s the body’s immune system actually attacking itself.
Sepsis can be the result of a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) – an infection a patient suffers while undergoing medical treatment either in a hospital or some other medical facility. The Sepsis Alliance notes that sepsis caused by an HAI can occur in elderly patients but also in the very young as well.
What causes hospital-acquired infections that lead to sepsis?
Infections anywhere in the body can lead to sepsis. These infections are caused by germs entering the body. As germ-heavy environments, hospitals are a prime source of infections. So hospitals must take special precautions to reduce patient exposure to dangerous germs.
It generally comes down to good personal hygiene and ensuring the cleanliness of medical devices and environments.
But these measures are only effective when healthcare staff adhere to them. A failure to follow proper medical protocols can allow harmful germs into patients, and ultimately sepsis.
Surgical Site Infections and Sepsis
Surgical site infections, are one possible avenue for germs to enter a patient. A surgical site infection is the result of a surgical incision not properly monitored and cared for in the days following an operation.
Harmful germs enter the body through the incision, but any type of skin break from medical treatment can be a breeding ground for eventual sepsis.
Another potential cause of sepsis is the insertion of a central line into a large vein. These IVs are typically used in patients already seriously ill. A central line can stay in for days or even weeks and provide direct access to the heart. If that IV is not properly sanitized it has immense potential for spreading dangerous germs throughout the body.
Urinary Tract Infections
A similar cause of infection that leads to sepsis is via a urinary catheter. This medical device helps drain urine from the bladder. But an unclean urinary catheter can cause a urinary tract infection, which, according to the Sepsis Alliance, is the most common hospital-acquired infection.
Hospital-acquired infections aren’t inevitable. The Sepsis Alliance provides a list of steps medical staff and facilities should take that can reduce the chances of HAIs developing in patients, including:
· Washing hands before and after seeing every patient
· Cleaning patient rooms regularly
· Ensuing all medical device are properly cleaned and sterilized
· Following established sterilization protocols when performing medical procedures such as changing wound dressings or inserting catheters
Sepsis is a potentially deadly complication that hundreds of thousands of hospital patients suffer every year. If you suffered serious injuries are lost a family member from a hospital-acquired infection during medical treatment, speak to a medical malpractice attorney about your experience.
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Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog Sept. 17, 2021