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Sepsis - what are the causes, symptoms and treatments?

View profile for Laura Sheehan
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Sepsis - new guidelines being published for doctors on how to deal with this deadly condition

If you ask the general population, many won’t know or have even heard of it, yet according to the UK Sepsis Trust, it’s one of the most common causes of death in the UK, responsible for killing up to 44,000 people a year. It’s bigger than breast, bowel and prostate cancer put together. 

Sepsis is triggered by an infection in our body. It can start from the smallest of cuts and is caused by our own immune system effectively going into overdrive to attack the infection. The body’s rapid and severe response to fight the infection is too much and it can cause our body to go into shock, suffer organ failure and if not treated appropriately, can kill us.

The symptoms of sepsis can be very familiar, from breathlessness, discoloured skin to muscle pain. They can mimic other common and less serious illnesses. 

There have been some terribly sad cases in the news recently reporting instances where children have lost their lives to sepsis. You may have read in the last few days about William Mead who passed away just 12 months of age due to sepsis. Tragically, his sepsis was not recognised.

I have recently recovered compensation for a lady whose husband passed away from sepsis. He suffered with a sore to his foot which became infected. The infection was unfortunately never treated correctly by his GPs and the hospital and instead was allowed to progress. He suffered septicemia and passed away as a result. His death was wholly avoidable.

Hospitals, particularly in the last three years, have an increased awareness of sepsis and so more cases of sepsis are now being detected.  The UK Sepsis Trust say reports show an increase in deaths from sepsis as rising by a third but this is likely to be due to the fact that more cases are now actually being recognised as sepsis, compared to a few years ago. 

Sepsis is a very treatable condition if diagnosed in time. It involves looking for the source of the infection and treatment with antibiotics.  However time is of the essence and for every hour there’s a delay in providing antibiotics, the risk of dying increases by a few per cent. It’s therefore essential that it is detected early. 

People can become very ill and sustain permanent injury or as we’ve read or heard examples of, can die as a result of sepsis. This can occur even when medical professionals provide excellent care. However, sometimes it can occur due to substandard medical care, such as a failure to diagnose and treat the sepsis in a timely manner. If you, a family member or friend have been affected by sepsis and wish to speak to a clinical negligence specialist about it, telephone our legal team on 0175 321 6399. They will be able to advise you if you have a potential claim for compensation and help you move forward. 

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