World Sepsis Day is held on the 13th September each year and September is Sepsis Awareness Month. Both events are designed to raise awareness of the fact that sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Sepsis arises when the body over-responds to a pre-existing infection by attacking its own tissues and organs.
Many people can experience a mild form of sepsis as a result of cuts, insect bites, chest infections, urine infections or other minor illnesses. However, in severe cases, this causes widespread inflammation of the body which can damage tissue and interfere with blood flow, causing blood pressure to drop, preventing oxygen from reaching organs and tissues. This can have serious consequences and once vital organs have been affected a person can become ill very quickly. Sepsis can cause multi-organ failure, resulting in 40% of those recovering from sepsis being left with long-term health problems and some cases tragically resulting in death.
It is estimated that approximately 44,000 people die of sepsis each year in the UK, which equates to one person every 12 minutes. Sepsis is the final common pathway to death from the majority of infectious diseases in the world, including COVID-19.
However, the problem is that sepsis is notoriously difficult to diagnose. It can have similar symptoms to severe flu or a chest infection. Some of the key symptoms of sepsis to be aware of include:
- Difficulty breathing or breathlessness
- Reduction in urine output
- Low body temperature
- Blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
- Confusion, agitation and drowsiness
It is vital that sepsis is diagnosed and treated as early as possible. When detected early, sepsis can often be treated with antibiotics. Patients diagnosed with severe sepsis are sometimes placed in intensive care so that the source of the infection can be identified. Delayed treatment or misdiagnosis of sepsis can result in devastating consequences.
In April 2022, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability to an incident that occurred in 2019 where Kingsley Olasupo died due to a failure to screen for infection. Kingsley spent 10 days at the Royal Bolton Hospital after his birth, presenting symptoms such as a low birth weight, trouble feeding, a low temperature and a rash but was not screened for infection, nor provided with antibiotics to counter it. An investigation into the care given revealed that Kingsley’s death could have been avoided if staff had administered antibiotics for the infection earlier.
If you believe that you or a family member have suffered from misdiagnosed or delayed treatment of sepsis, please contact our Medical Negligence team for a confidential initial discussion and advice:
Exeter 01392 285000 Cullompton 01884 33818