Sepsis Negligence Claims


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There are approximately 150,000 cases of Sepsis every year in the UK, which result in a staggering 44,000 deaths – more than the annual deaths caused by breast, prostate and bowel cancer combined.

Sepsis can be the result of a patient failing to seek treatment for an infection, which then gets worse and develops into a more serious condition. However, a lot of cases of sepsis in the UK are caused by medical negligence such as a delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis. In such cases, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation – for more information get in touch with CL Legal today.

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What is Sepsis?

Also sometimes known as blood poisoning or septicaemia, Sepsis is a potentially life threatening condition which can lead to organ failure and death if it isn’t recognised and treated quickly.

Put in simple terms, Sepsis is the result of the immune system responding to a bacterial infection in the blood. This infection in called septicaemia, which can lead to Sepsis as poisons are released into the blood by the bacteria. Blood should always be sterile in the body, so any outside agents are immediately flagged by the immune system – which then mounts the response we now refer to as Sepsis. Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.

Although anyone can develop Sepsis following a minor infection or injury, some people are most susceptible than others – for instance:

  • Those with a medical condition or who are currently receiving treatment that weakens their immune system
  • Those already in hospital suffering from a serious illness
  • Those who are very young or very old
  • Those who have recently had surgery or currently have wounds or injuries as a result of an accident

Sepsis usually starts with an infection in one part of the body, but can also be triggered by conditions such as severe pressure sores, surgical wounds and poorly maintained intravenous lines.

What are the symptoms of Sepsis?

There are three stages of Sepsis: Sepsis, severe Sepsis and Septic shock.

Sepsis symptoms

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and chills
  • Thirst
  • Signs of worsening organ function such as difficult or rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure or low urine output

Severe Sepsis symptoms

  • This is when there is organ failure caused by the Sepsis, with one or more of the following symptoms:
  • patches of discoloured skin
  • decreased urination
  • changes in mental ability
  • low platelet (blood clotting cells) count
  • breathing problems
  • abnormal heart functions
  • chills due to fall in body temperature
  • unconsciousness
  • extreme weakness

Septic shock

This is when the patient’s blood pressure falls to less than 90/65 (medically referred to as ‘hypotensive’). Septic shock usually develops within the first 24 hours of the onset of sepsis.

As a result of the problems that can develop with vital organs, people with severe sepsis are likely to suffer a serious illness and up to 40% of patients with the condition will not survive. Septic shock is even more serious, with an estimated six in every 10 cases proving fatal.

Septic shock is now defined to include sepsis with fluid-unresponsive hypotension, serum lactate level greater than 2 mmol/L, and the need for vasopressors to maintain mean arterial pressure of 65 mm Hg or greater.

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms and have reason to believe you could have Sepsis (e.g. if you have recently injured yourself or have had surgery), then it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How is Sepsis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Sepsis is a contentious area within the medical world, with the process being officially changed in February 2016.

Prior to February 2016, Sepsis would be suspected if there is a documented or potential infection, and if two or more of the following symptoms presented in the patient:

  • Temperature over 38C or under 36C
  • Heart rate over 90
  • Respiratory rate more than 20 or respiratory alkalosis
  • WBC of more than 12,000, or less than 4,000

Following this process, a blood test would be commissioned to confirm the Sepsis.

The new diagnosis process is designed to help doctors to distinguish between patients who have a bad infection and those who have a really bad infection which is causing problems in their organs that could lead to death. The new diagnosis revision removes the necessity to use two or more of the above systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria for sepsis diagnosis – which was considered to be unhelpful in the diagnosis of Sepsis.

Recent medical studies have demonstrated that these SIRS symptoms tend to occur in a large proportion of patients in hospital, so to use them for a specific diagnosis can often lead to false positives and misleading conclusions.

The new diagnosis criteria for Sepsis (known as Sepsis-3) includes the evidence of infection as well as organ failure – which is determined using the Sequential (Sepsis-related) Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score, which uses a variety of inputs from the patient such as blood pressure, heart rate, rate of urine output and so on.

How is Sepsis treated?

As any medical professional can apply the SOFA scale to a patient, so a diagnosis of Sepsis does not necessarily have to take place in a hospital setting. Patients can therefore recover at home with the help of antibiotics if the Sepsis has been caught reasonably early.

If the Sepsis has progressed beyond the early stages, though, antibiotics alone are not enough for effective treatment. The intake of fluids is also required for more severe cases of Sepsis, which may necessitate intravenous drips. In cases of severe Sepsis it is important for doctors to know how much urine you are producing so they can monitor your kidney function, so a catheter will also need to be inserted on admittance to hospital with severe Sepsis symptoms.

If the kidneys are failing, then dialysis will be needed and the patient will be put on breathing machinery if required.

Sepsis six

The term ‘Sepsis six’ refers to the six steps – three tests and three treatments – that should be administered by the medical team within an hour of Sepsis diagnosis.

Three tests:

  • taking blood cultures to identify the type of bacteria causing sepsis
  • taking a blood sample to assess the severity of sepsis
  • monitoring your urine output to assess severity and kidney function

Three treatments:

  • antibiotics
  • intravenous fluids
  • oxygen (if levels are low)

Making a Sepsis medical negligence claim

Due to the nature of Sepsis, the early detection and diagnosis is pivotal in preventing long-term and serious damage – including multiple organ failure and death. If you or a loved one has had Sepsus which was misdiagnosed or wasn’t diagnosed quickly enough then you could be entitled to make a claim for medical negligence.

For more information about how the medical negligence experts at CL Legal could help you make a compensation claim, get in touch today...

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