Sepsis. It’s a scary sounding word. And quite honestly, it is a scary diagnosis. Sepsis is when your body becomes overwhelmed by an infection and can no longer fight it. It is your body’s life-threatening response to an infection; and any kind of infection–strep throat, a urinary tract infection (UTI), influenza, infected wounds, etc. – can lead to sepsis. Sepsis can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Simply put: Sepsis is a medical emergency!
September 13 is World Sepsis Day, bringing attention to the dangers of sepsis and highlighting what medical professionals around the globe are doing to combat it. Read on to learn more about what you should do as a patient and the actions Valley Medical Center is taking to prevent/mitigate the effects of sepsis.
But first… a few more sobering statistics:
- Sepsis is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more patients each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS combined.
- It is the number one diagnosis for patients admitted through Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Department. In fact, 90 percent of septic patients admitted to Valley are diagnosed in the ER.
- 6 million people are diagnosed with sepsis every year in the U.S.
- Sepsis is the leading cause of death in hospitals.
- Worldwide, 40 percent of patients diagnosed with sepsis die.
- In the U.S., 20 percent of patients diagnosed with sepsis die.
- And at Valley, our survival numbers are significantly better than the national average.
- Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital readmissions. It is the single biggest cost to hospitals ($24 billion) each year.
- 50 percent of sepsis survivors suffer post-sepsis syndrome that causes cognitive issues, similar to those experienced by stroke survivors.
“I have an infection. Does that mean I’m going to get sepsis???”
No. But as with any illness, it is important to not ignore what your body is telling you. Even if you’ve been to the doctor for an illness, it is essential that you are persistent in your care and follow up with your doctor. Go back if you don’t feel better. And if you were feeling a little sick and start to feel a whole lot worse, seek help IMMEDIATELY. Remember, it’s vital to get in early rather than let symptoms progress.
Sepsis symptoms are as follows:
S – Shivering, fever, or very cold
E – Extreme pain or discomfort (“worst ever”)
P – Pale or discolored skin
S – Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
I – “I feel like I might die”
S – Short of breath
If you suspect you or a loved one may have sepsis, see a medical professional immediately or call 911 and say “I am concerned about sepsis.”
Phew! As you can see, sepsis is a big deal. So, here’s what Valley is doing about it:
- Triage: Early intervention is key with preventing/mitigating the effects of sepsis. All patients, both at the hospital and in the clinics, are screened for the signs and symptoms of sepsis. As with all triage and bedside rounding by members of our medical staff, all patient data is recorded in to our Electronic Health Record (EHR) system after every interaction.
- Technology: Within the EHR, alert systems are in place to help identify patients who might be at risk for sepsis. The EHR sweeps a patient’s vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc.) and if an alert is triggered, doctors and nurses follow protocol for next steps in the patient’s care.
- Team: Valley has a Sepsis Governance Council, a robust group that includes our chief intensivist, chief emergency room doctor, and chief hospitalist among others. We also have a Sepsis Coordinator, Celeste Etherington, DNP, ARNP-CNS; whose doctoral work at UW was in sepsis. The team meets regularly to look at trends, review specific cases and works with leadership to ensure that the staff have the training and tools they need to prevent/fight sepsis cases.
- Training: Etherington works with teams throughout the hospital and Valley’s clinic network to educate employees on the symptoms of sepsis and to implement clinical practice guidelines. As stated earlier the key to preventing/mitigating the effects of sepsis is to identify and intervene early.
- Tenacity: We suspect infection EARLY, we recognize sepsis EARLY, and we initiate treatment IMMEDIATELY.