Sepsis, which can occur in the community at large and in hospitals, is deadlier than prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS, combined, with approximately 1.5 million cases annually. It's the eleventh leading cause of death overall, with more than 258,000 fatalities in the United States each year.
This is why it is so critical to recognize sepsis as quickly as possible. The Medical Center of Aurora is equipped with systems that help develop real-time monitoring to predict who might be at risk for sepsis. This gives us the ability to intervene early and sets a new, better standard of healthcare.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when the body responds to an infection by releasing organ-damaging toxins into the bloodstream. Not everyone who has an infection will develop sepsis, but everyone with sepsis already has an infection.
Who can get sepsis?
ANYONE can develop sepsis, but the elderly, infants and children, or those with weakened immune systems, and those that are already significantly ill are most at risk.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
If an infection occurs ANYWHERE, there is an increased risk for developing sepsis. This is one reason why it is important to seek care from a physician immediately if you have signs of an infection that is worsening. Remember, most people who have an infection will never develop sepsis, but everyone with sepsis has an infection. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the warning signs of sepsis include:
S - Shivering, fever or feeling very cold
E - Extreme pain or general discomfort
P - Pale or discolored skin
S - Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
I - "I feel like I might die"
S -Short of breath
How is sepsis treated?
Sepsis awareness is important, because early detection is critical to survival. If sepsis is suspected, antibiotics and intravenous fluids are administered right away. Each hour antibiotic administration is delayed, the risk of death increases by eight percent. Oxygen, other supportive therapies or surgery to remove damaged tissue may also be used to treat sepsis. Recognizing the telltale signs of sepsis and seeking care immediately is the key to survival.
How is sepsis prevented?
You can help prevent sepsis by preventing infections that can lead to it. Some preventive steps you can take include:
- Get appropriate, recommended vaccinations to prevent illnesses
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently
- Clean cuts or wounds thoroughly if you are injured
- Take antibiotics as prescribed
Seek medical help immediately if an illness or infection does not improve, if you suspect you have sepsis or if you present any symptoms of an infection.