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Sepsis: What is it?
Sepsis was previously known as septicaemia or blood poisoning. It is a medical emergency and if not recognised early and treated agressively it can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death.
Most bacterial infections are caused by organisms that we come in to contact with on a daily basis. Many are due to bacteria that we carry on our skin or in our gut. Infection occurs when they these get in to the wrong space. This usually causes a localised infection that can easily be treated by oral antibiotics. Sometimes, though, the body responds abnormally to these infections, and causes sepsis.
Approximately 44,000 people die of sepsis every year in the UK. That’s more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer put together.
if caught early the outlook is good for the vast majority of cases hence it is crucial not to delay seeking medical attention
International recommendations suggest that treatment should be started within one hour of sepsis being suspected.
Sepsis the facts
Sepsis can occur as a consequence of any infection but most commonly chest or urine infections. It can look just like flu or gastroeneteritis.
It can happen to anyone but is most common at the extremes of life and in those whose immune systems are compromised. With advances in healthcare more people are living longer, we are saving more premature babies, more people are surviving cancer, we have more people receiving transplants and we are increasingly using drugs that suppress the immune system to treat immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Thus the Incidence of sepsis has increased by 8-13% over the last decade
Six symptoms to look for
Be suspicious if someone who appears to have an infection or who has had recent surgery develops any of the following:
Slurred speech or new onset confusion
Extreme shivering or muscle pain
Passing no urine in a day
“I feel like I might die”
Skin mottled or discoloured
How will I know?
If you suspect sepsis, try to ensure that the patient receives urgent medical attention. Don’t be afraid to say "I think this might be sepsis". Remember, if it does turn out to be sepsis, getting this patient treated even one hour earlier might make the difference between life and death.
What can be done?
The good news is life-saving treatment for sepsis is often relatively straightforward. Early recognition, and getting basic treatments including antibiotics and fluids into the patient within the first hour can halt the progression.
The Sepsis Trust believes that, once sepsis is accepted as a medical emergency and as a clinical priority for the NHS, we can save up to 10,000 lives each year.
A recent national audit of patients who required treatment in intensive care units for sepsis found that over 60% of the delays in patients receiving timely care were due to the individual not seeking medical help soon enough.
By increasing awareness amongst the public we hope to enable earlier recognition of sepsis. Coupled with innovation, research and the sharing of good practice enabling more reliable delivery of immediate life-saving treatments including earlier antibiotics and fluids, we hope to make this NHS aspiration a reality.
Remember “Think Sepsis”
For further information visit: www.sepsistrust.org