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Sepsis: Understanding the Facts

This factsheet aims to provide accessible information about sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition. It covers the definition, causes, symptoms, risk factors, and the importance of early recognition and treatment. Remember, this factsheet is not a substitute for medical advice. If you suspect sepsis, seek immediate medical attention.

What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a serious medical condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. It can occur when the immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight the infection, causing widespread inflammation. If not treated promptly, sepsis can lead to organ failure and death.

Common Causes:
Sepsis can result from various infections, including bacterial, viral, or fungal. Common sources of infection leading to sepsis include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Abdominal infections (such as appendicitis or peritonitis)
  • Skin infections (such as cellulitis)
  • Bacterial bloodstream infections (bacteremia)

Recognising Symptoms:
Early recognition of sepsis is crucial for prompt treatment. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • High fever or abnormally low body temperature
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Chills and shivering
  • Pale or mottled skin
  • Reduced urine output
  • Severe pain or discomfort

Risk Factors:
Certain factors increase the risk of developing sepsis:

  • Weakened immune system (due to chronic illness, cancer treatment, or medication)
  • Age (the very young and elderly are more susceptible)
  • Recent surgery or invasive medical procedures
  • Presence of chronic illnesses (such as diabetes or kidney disease)
  • Open wounds or injuries
  • Intravenous (IV) drug use

The Importance of Early Treatment:
Early intervention is vital to improve sepsis outcomes. If you suspect sepsis, take immediate action:

  • Call emergency services or go to the nearest emergency department.
  • Inform healthcare professionals about your concerns regarding sepsis.
  • Provide a detailed medical history, including recent infections or surgeries.

Medical Assessment and Treatment:
Once at the hospital, doctors will evaluate your condition and may perform tests, including blood cultures and imaging. Treatment options may include:

  • Intravenous antibiotics to combat the infection
  • Fluids and medications to stabilize blood pressure and improve organ function
  • Oxygen therapy if necessary
  • Intensive care unit (ICU) admission for close monitoring and specialized care

While not all cases of sepsis can be prevented, you can take steps to reduce the risk:

  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Follow proper wound care protocols
  • Stay up to date with vaccinations, including pneumonia and flu vaccines
  • Manage chronic illnesses effectively
  • Seek prompt medical attention for infections or signs of sepsis

Sepsis is a serious medical condition that requires urgent attention. Recognising the symptoms, understanding the risk factors, and seeking immediate medical care can significantly improve outcomes. Remember, if you suspect sepsis, don’t delay—seek emergency medical assistance.

If you would like more information, please contact our Clinical Negligence Healthcare team on 061 414355 or alternatively via email on [email protected]

Published On: May 18, 2023

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