Sepsis or septicemia is a severe illness in which the bloodstream is overwhelmed by bacteria and can cause the entire body to be in an inflammatory state called systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) or septic shock. A lay term for sepsis is blood poisoning.
Sepsis can start out as a bacterial infection anywhere in the body. Common places where an infection may start include:
- The bowel or intestines (bowel perforations or peritonitis)
- Kidneys (pyelonephritis)
- Bladder (urinary tract infection or urosepsis)
- Lining of the brain (meningitis)
- Gallbladder (cholecystitis or bile duct injury)
- Lungs (pneumonia)
- Skin (cellulitis or decubitus ulcers and bedsores)
- Bone (osteomyelitis)
- Blood stream from intravenous lines (IV’s), PICC lines, Central lines, umbilical artery (UA) lines or umbilical vein (UV) lines
- Surgical wound or incision
- Surgical drain
- Dialysis catheter or shunt
- Ventriculostomy or shunt
Neonatal sepsis or an infection in a newborn is usually caused by prolonged rupture of the membranes, amniotic sac or water bag, Group B strep, Chlamydia, meconium aspiration, infected central lines or umbilical lines, or untreated necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
If an infection is not properly diagnosed and treated right away, it can lead to the bacteria taking over the body and causing a reaction that damages the vascular system leading to a very low blood pressure and lack of blood and oxygen to the major organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and extremities.
Patients who are septic or in septic shock are usually treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) with intravenous fluids and IV antibiotics. If fluid replacement is not enough to keep the blood pressure elevated at a safe level, medications called vasopressors may be used. In addition, a ventilator (breathing machine) or dialysis may be used to help support the lungs and kidneys.
A patient who develops sepsis or an overwhelming infection may have the following:
- A high fever or low body temperature
- Elevated white blood cell count (wbc)
- Elevated heart rate or tachycardia
- Fast breathing or tachypnea
- Cold and clammy skin
- Pale skin
- Mottling of the skin or a purplish color to the skin
- Low pulse oximetry or low oxygen level
- A bluish color around the mouth or on the fingernails
- Low urine output or oliguria/anuria
- Confusion or a change in mental status
- Chills or shaking
- Skin rash
If sepsis or an infection is not diagnosed and treated properly it can lead to septic shock, multi-system organ damage, amputations, brain damage, encephalopathy or even death. If you, your baby or loved one has suffered due to an infection that was not properly treated, please feel free to contact one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291. Our highly specialized failure to treat infection team consists of doctors and nurses who have spent thousands of hours at patient’s bedsides treating individuals with overwhelming infections and sepsis. To date, we have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients with multiple million and multi-million verdicts and settlements.