Sepsis is a life-threatening illness. It is usually caused by the body’s response to bacterial infection. The immune system goes into overdrive, which overwhelms normal processes in the blood. As sepsis progresses, it begins to affect organ function and eventually can lead to septic shock.
Old people, babies and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of getting sepsis. But, even healthy people can become deathly ill from it.
- Decreased urination
- Fast heart rate
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Warm skin or a skin rash
- Rapid breathing
- A person may have sepsis if he/she has:
- Acidosis (too much acid in the blood)
- High or low blood cell count
- Low platelet count
- Abnormal kidney and liver function
Quick diagnosis and prompt treatment is vitally important. Patients will be placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) for special treatment. The doctor will try to identify the source and type of infection, than administer antibiotics to fight the infection.
A more severe case may require ventilation for respiratory failure, vasopressor treatment to stabilize blood pressure, painkillers, and medications to control blood sugar and immune response. Invasive surgical procedures may also be required to drain or remove the source of infection.
Sepsis and Nursing Homes
As mentioned above, sepsis is the result of infection. When nursing home abuse occurs and elders experience bed sores, the condition can often progress to sepsis. The condition is particularly dangerous in nursing home residents because they often have decreased levels of immunity to fight the infection.
Sepsis can be prevented by making sure the nursing home is providing adequate care, especially to those patients that are bed ridden or need assistance with mobility. Nursing home caretakers can reduce sepsis risk by regularly bathing residents, proper attention and cleaning of wounds and beds sores and by regularly changing IV lines.
Lawmakers are working to change the way the nation’s nursing home treats elders in order to help instances of abuse that can result in conditions such as sepsis syndrome.
A study, published in October, suggests for the first time, that sepsis can leave some elderly individuals with long-term cognitive or physical problems.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1,194 elderly patients that were hospitalized with severe sepsis. They compared them with 4,517 elderly people who experienced hospitalization but not sepsis. Researchers found sepsis patients had a threefold higher risk for developing cognitive problems, including forgetfulness, compared to those people who were hospitalized for other reasons.
You can read more about the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.