If you are have never heard of or know what sepsis is, you are in the majority of Americans that fall into that same category. This, however, doesn’t stop sepsis from being a killer of over 2.4 million people between 1999 and 2014. Yet, in all of this, there is still some ambiguity, even in the medical community, as to the exact number of people that pass away from sepsis infections. The sepsis mortality rate is shocking and worse, it is still on the rise.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis, by definition, is the presence of bacteria or other pathogenic organisms in the blood, which spreads throughout the host causing severe pain, fever with chills, altered mental state, and low blood pressure. The bacteria or toxin can have many short- and long-term effects on a host including:
- Swelling in the brain, which can cause coma or death
- Swelling in soft tissue, which can lead to gangrene or amputation
- Organ failure
- Psychological trauma sometimes lasting years
How Do I Know if I Have Sepsis?
Most cases of sepsis are accompanied by severe pain that would put just about anyone in the hospital. There is no home testing kit for sepsis, it can only be done at a medical facility. Testing for sepsis usually happens when someone presents with extreme pain, fever with chills, shortness of breath or acute loss of mental capacity. Blood will be drawn and looked at for the presence of bacteria or other pathogens.
How is Sepsis Treated?
Treatments for Sepsis are usually antibiotics, IV fluids, and depending upon the severity of the case, other specialists would be called in as necessary. For the most part, all of this happens while in the hospital. The stay in the hospital may be a couple of days to several weeks depending upon the gravity of the case and the underlying health conditions associated with the patient. More frail, sickly or compromised patients are apt to stay longer, or required to transfer to a full-time health facility.
How Often do People Die from Sepsis?
The sepsis mortality is a hard one to answer without some background. Sepsis may be the main culprit when a patient ends up in the hospital, but that patient may have many other health conditions that could be worsened by an infection. That patient may pass away due to one or several other complications, and sepsis may not be listed as the cause of death.
Other times, it depends on where a patient is living, because in some states, listing sepsis as a cause of death may be turned down and returned to the doctor or coroner and another cause listed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there is a deficit of between 15-140% each year of cases that could or should be listed as sepsis listed as a cause, but instead write in other underlying conditions.
The way in which they are figuring these percentages is they looked over all death certificates, even go back as far as 1999, and checking on the information registered on the certificate. In some cases, documentation would lead to a conclusion of sepsis, but many physicians and medical examiners coded or wrote in other varying conditions, such as secondary infections or organ failure due to infection. Findings like these have led those in the CDC to change their estimates and bring to the forefront the need to better classify and accept sepsis as being a dramatic contributor to many individual’s deaths.
A couple of reasons why identification of the infection is such an important concept is first, many patients may be being misdiagnosed when they are seeking help, and due to delayed response end up passing away. Secondly, because of the required stay in the hospital or other care facility, costs associated with sepsis are constantly on the rise. The demand for time, money and resources has grown to a staggering$23.7 billion in 2013. More efforts need to be made to make hospitals and other healthcare facilities aware of sepsis and ways to prevent the infection from happening.
More hospitals have implemented software that will help to single outpatient that exhibit enough indicators of infection to have that patient tested for sepsis, rather than remaining in a waiting room and possibly allowing the sepsis to worsen. It is steps like these that will help lessen the effects of sepsis along with the time required for a stay in the hospital. This, in turn, lessens the likelihood of sepsis mortality, which is what everyone is hoping for.
The longer it takes for clinicians to get to a sepsis diagnosis is that much longer for the infection to take hold on different parts of the body and wreak havoc. As such, more and more hospitals are creating sepsis treatment teams to catch patients earlier and begin assessments and treatments sooner. These teams are depending upon data and real-time information to identify and handle patients in order to lessen the effects the infection can have, and the amount of time a patient would be stuck in the hospital.