Vital Information: Raising Awareness of SepsisFrom the Desk of Dr. Antonucci
Sept. 21, 2022
At Lee Health, we are committed to spreading awareness of various health conditions, as well as treatment options and lifestyle modifications to help our patients and neighbors throughout our community lead healthier lives. I often use this column to do just that.
This month, I’m joining health systems, hospitals and health care providers to raise awareness of sepsis, which is the body’s extreme and life-threatening response to infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a typical year, sepsis affects 1.7 million American adults, and 350,000 of those adults die during their hospitalization or are discharged to hospice. The Sepsis Alliance reports that, in United States hospitals, sepsis is the leading cause of death and the costliest diagnosis to treat. In the US, one in three hospitalized patients who die has a diagnosis of sepsis, and the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that one in five deaths globally is attributed to sepsis. As with many other conditions, early identification and treatment are keys to improved outcomes.
We encourage you to raise your awareness of sepsis. Talk to your health care provider or check out all of the valuable information available from the CDC. And, in honor of Sepsis Awareness Month, I want to share these high points – some of the things you should know about sepsis to protect yourself and your loved ones:
- An existing infection can trigger sepsis; most often infections that start in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract or on the skin lead to sepsis. It is crucial to treat the underlying infection quickly and appropriately, so it does not lead to sepsis.
- While anyone can develop sepsis, some people are at higher risk, including:
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- People with weakened immune systems
- People living with chronic conditions like lung disease, cancer, kidney disease or diabetes
- Those who have been recently hospitalized or who have had a severe illness
- People who have had sepsis
- Children younger than 1
- Be aware of these signs and symptoms:
- Shivering or feeling very cold
- Clammy skin
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate or weak pulse
- Confusion or disorientation
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Sepsis is a medical emergency, and delayed medical attention can increase the risk of death by 4-9% for every hour treatment is delayed.
- If you or your loved one experiences any mix of the signs and symptoms, seek medical attention immediately and ask the health care team, “Could it be sepsis?”
- Treatment involves the administration of antibiotics and maintaining blood flow to the organs
At Lee Health, we hired a sepsis coordinator who helps ensure our processes and protocols reflect the latest evidence-based best practices for the identification and treatment of sepsis. Our sepsis coordinator also ensures clear consistent education and communication to keep the care teams abreast of the most current industry guidelines, as well as sepsis signs and symptoms, risk factors and treatment. And, because patients can develop sepsis while hospitalized, we employ leading-edge technology that alerts the care team when a patient begins showing signs of sepsis to enable early intervention by the care team and the initiation of treatment. We also are exploring ways to utilize the electronic health record to identify sepsis survivors and ensure that their status is known at every level of care because people who survive sepsis have long-term effects, including fatigue, cognitive issues, organ dysfunction and reinfection.
Keep this vital information in mind, especially if you or a loved one has an infection that worsens to the point of fever, confusion, shortness of breath or any mix of the signs and symptoms shared above. Act fast and seek medical care immediately.