Sepsis Takes More Lives Than Cancer
March 5, 2020
According to a recent study, sepsis kills more people worldwide than cancer. Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s reaction to infection. Without appropriate lab testing, imaging, diagnosis, and immediate medical treatment, sepsis can be – and far too often is – deadly.
The study, which was published in the well-known medical journal Lancet, took into account the number of deaths attributed to both cancer and sepsis in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, cancer took the lives of 9.6 million people; the year prior, sepsis killed 11 million. In the United States, approximately 1.7 million people develop sepsis every year, and upwards of 270,000 die from it. While people, including healthcare providers, have tended to view sepsis as a condition almost exclusively observed in older adults, research shows that it also affects a large number of children and teens.
What Is Sepsis, Exactly?
Sepsis, or “blood poisoning,” results from the body’s immune response to an infection. Most often, it is caused by septicemia, or a bacterial infection that occurs in the blood. In order to try to fight off the infection, the body sometimes launches a massive inflammatory attack – but instead of helping, that inflammatory immune response can actually inflict major tissue and organ damage. Certain people face higher risks for developing sepsis, such as individuals with weakened immune systems, severe wounds (or burns), and those with chronic illnesses (e.g. kidney or liver disease, diabetes, AIDS, and cancer). Babies, children, and older adults also face greater risks for sepsis.
When someone develops sepsis they can experience an array of serious and deadly medical complications, like permanent brain damage, immune system problems that can create other health issues down the line, heart failure, kidney failure, tissue death (also known as gangrene), endocarditis, or damage to the heart valves, and permanent lung damage.
Sepsis is accompanied by certain symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of the condition include:
- Rapid heart rate and breathing,
- Signs of reduced blood flow to one or more organs,
- Less urine output (e.g. not passing urine for 12 hours),
- Trouble breathing, and:
- Looking pale or bluish in color,
Recognizing the signs of sepsis is critical in preventing fatal outcomes. The sooner a medical professional diagnoses a person with the condition, the better their chances are for a good recovery. If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of sepsis, seek immediate medical treatment. Sepsis is considered a medical emergency.
One big obstacle when it comes to limiting preventable fatalities associated with sepsis is when a provider fails to recognize the signs and does not execute a correct and timely diagnosis. Sepsis is treatable – but only when it is caught in time. In order to diagnose the condition, doctors must order urine, kidney, blood, or imaging tests. To effectively treat sepsis, the source (or infection) has to be identified and then treated with antibiotics. Many patients require additional medical care, like intravenous fluids, extra oxygen, breathing tubes or ventilators, dialysis (when there is kidney failure), and other medications.
When a doctor fails to notice the warning signs of sepsis and it results in harm to the patient, it may be considered medical negligence. If so, you may have a medical malpractice claim. If you would like to learn more about your legal rights, someone at our firm can help. Please contact a representative directly.
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