Appreciating the dangers of Sepsis

Posted by Joanna Rzepecka on
Recently the Health Watchdog has reported that symptoms of sepsis should be treated just like a suspected heart attack. Septicaemia is a very complex condition and research is ongoing into what exactly triggers such a fatal reaction to an infection.

''National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance urges medics to consider sepsis early-on when treating any patients unwell with infections." In its first guidance on the issue, NICE acknowledges that it is a complex medical problem.

It has been noted that 44,000 deaths each year are caused by sepsis. It is estimated that implementation of the new approach could save between 5,000 and 13,000 lives.

Sepsis is a very dangerous condition and in a very short time it can lead to organ failure, shock and death. Sepsis is known to be very tricky to diagnose due to its vague initial symptoms such as fever, increased breathing, and feeling generally unwell, which can easily be misdiagnosed and mistaken for other conditions.

That is why the watchdog urges GPs, hospital staff and first aiders to consider sepsis in people who are unwell with infection and to treat them with the same urgency and diligence as they would treat someone with a suspected heart attack. The important point is to consider sepsis much earlier. "It requires a depth of thought and experience and a way of examining patients which isn't always there - particularly because of time pressures and partly because we have got used to implementing guidelines without thinking."

Dr Maureen Baker, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said, "The diagnosis of sepsis is a huge worry for GPs, as initial symptoms can be similar to common viral illnesses, so we welcome any guidance or support to help us identify it as early as possible."

Melissa Mead, whose one-year-old son William died from sepsis in 2014 said "This could not come any sooner. Sadly we have been touched in very real terms by sepsis and could not agree more that clinicians need to start asking, 'Could this be sepsis?".

Medical practitioners must continuously improve their skills and knowledge to treat patients more effectively; we also need to learn about this condition and work closely together to avoid misdiagnosis and unnecessary deaths, many of whom are children.  

For more information about this condition please refer to The NHS website.

About the Author

Joanna is a Trainee Legal Executive in the Clinical Negligence team at Blake Morgan Injury Group.

Joanna Rzepecka
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