Anyone with an infection can get sepsis and most cases often begin in the community, but it also can happen if you recently had surgery or are in a hospital.
Did you know that about 80% of sepsis-related fatalities could have been prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment? Sepsis is your body’s reaction to a serious infection, and ultimately the inability to treat it on its own.
“Since sepsis is a response to an infection or virus in our bodies, sometimes our own bodies have trouble identifying the virus versus our internal organs,” says Dr. Michael Ries, Sepsis Committee member and Medical Director of Critical Care at Advocate Aurora Health. “Sepsis occurs when the infection triggers a response that can make your body attack its own organs. That’s why identifying sepsis as early as possible is so critical.”
Because sepsis can be hard to diagnose at first, it’s important for medical staff and patients to monitor any open wounds or sores and gauge any subtle changes in your clinical status. The typical warning signs are fluctuations in body temperature, fatigue and sleepiness, disorientation and/or feeling ill with pain and discomfort.
“Sepsis isn’t like a heart attack, where the symptoms are obvious,” says Dr. Ries. “It requires critical thinking and careful observation from clinical staff and physicians to diagnose.”
Once diagnosed, sepsis should be treated as a medical emergency. Antibiotics and fluids are imperative in maintaining blood pressure and curing the infection. Other ways to monitor recovery is through biomarkers and lactic acid levels, which can help decipher whether patients are responding to treatment.
“Age, early detection and any underlying diseases are key factors in determining how quickly patients will recover,” says Dr. Ries.
Once treatment has started, and if detected early enough, most internal organ damage is reversable. But if left undiagnosed, more severe stages of sepsis can develop like septic shock. Dr. Ries says that low blood pressure and progressive organ failure are the biggest indicators of septic shock.
Gabby’s Law was implemented in 2016 across the state of Illinois to avoid these escalated cases. It requires all Illinois hospitals to be better prepared to recognize and treat sepsis.