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More Patients in Hospitals are Getting Blood Poisoning, Sepsis and Septic Shock

by The Beasley Firm  |  June 30, 2011  |  

Reports have shown that the rate of sepsis or blood poisoning has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

A bacterial infection in a cut, wound, laceration, incision, or in the lungs, abdomen, bladder or other part of the body, that is not quickly diagnosed and treated with the proper antibiotics, can quickly lead to the infection getting into the blood stream. An infection in the blood stream is also called blood poisoning or sepsis and it can become deadly. Sepsis can lead to a critical condition called septic shock where the kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and other vital organs can “shut down” or cause multi-system organ failure. Septic shock can also lead to a very low blood pressure that has to be supported with certain strong intravenous medications such as epinephrine or Levophed, commonly referred to as “pressors”.

Unfortunately, many patients die from septic shock. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 percent of the patients that die in hospitals, die from being septic or from septic shock. Even if a patient survives sepsis, they can be left with mental deficits, mobility problems, and permanent organ damage that can lead to the need for dialysis or other life long medical treatments.

According to Dr. R. Phillip Dellinger, director of critical care at Cooper University Hospital and a sepsis expert, “physicians are often loathe to give out antibiotics without a firm diagnosis based on blood tests because they fear that this could lead to more drug-resistant strains of bacteria.” Dr. Dellinger’s personal bias is that it is better to assume there is sepsis and start antibiotics right away and then stop them if it turns out not to be sepsis. Dr. Dellinger feels that, “there’s an increase in mortality (or death) for every hour you delay antibiotics.” In addition to antibiotics, patients who are septic may also need supportive treatments such as intravenous fluids, medications to support the blood pressure, oxygen, and even a ventilator or breathing machine.

As a medical and legal professional I have not only cared for thousands of hospital patients who developed sepsis or septic shock, but have also reviewed thousands of medical negligence cases that involved a patient going into septic shock. As a parent, I experienced first hand the horrible experience of watching a loved one develop sepsis. My daughter was being treated by her doctor for a urinary tract infection. After three days of being on an antibiotic, she was not getting any better. In fact, she was getting worse. I took her back to the pediatrician who said, “she is fine…give the antibiotic time to work.” I thought 3 days was enough time to at least start seeing some improvement instead of a worsening of her complaints and symptoms. I was right. The following morning, she was admitted to the intensive care unit at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, with severe pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and septic shock. She got better after finally being treated with the correct antibiotic.

My experience is not unusual. Many patients fall victim to sepsis or septic shock because they are either not placed on antibiotics fast enough or placed on the wrong antibiotic. If you or a loved one was catastrophically injured, permanently damaged, or suffered a wrongful death due to sepsis or septic shock, our highly experienced legal and medical teams here at the Beasley medical malpractice law firm are here to help you. Please feel free to contact us for an absolutely no-risk, free and confidential consultation.

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