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Sepsis – The Silent Killer

17 Sep 2017

In sepsis awareness month, the Clinical Negligence Team at Hay & Kilner look at the importance of diagnosing sepsis early in order to prevent serious injury or even death.

Cases involving injury or death as a result of delayed or incorrect diagnosis of sepsis are on the rise. The UK Sepsis Trust state that at least 150,000 people develop sepsis in the UK every year, with 44,000 of those people dying as a result.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition. It can be triggered when the body responds to an infection which causes the immune system to overwork and results in the body injuring its own tissues and organs. This makes sepsis difficult to diagnose and often results in more damage than the original infection.

The UK Sepsis Trust has provided a summary of the early warning signs that may be indicative of sepsis. For adults, medical help should be sought immediately if you, or another, develop the following:

  • Slurred speech and/or confusion
  • Extreme shivering and muscle pain
  • Passing no urine in a day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It ‘feels like I’m going to die’
  • Skin is discoloured or mottled

With children, any of the following signs may also be indicative of sepsis:

  • Breathing very quickly
  • Looking pale, bluish or mottled
  • Having abnormally cold skin
  • Feeling extremely tired, lethargic or difficult to wake
  • Had a ‘fit’ or convulsion
  • The presence of a rash that does not go when touched

If any of the above warning signs are present, it is always important to ask your medical professional whether it might be sepsis.

As with meningitis, time is very much of the essence. If sepsis is caught early, the outcomes for patients are good – an early diagnosis could prove to be vital in avoiding the deterioration of a patient and long-term injury. However, if it is left undiagnosed, the patient is likely to fall into multi-organ failure, septic shock and could even die. According to recent research, for every hour that passes, a patient’s chances of survival are slashed by 8%.

Unfortunately, not all cases of sepsis are diagnosed during the early stages. If there is a delay in your medical professional diagnosing and treating sepsis, it is important to ask why this has happened. For some, an individual may delay seeking medical attention because the symptoms are very similar to flu.

On the other hand, a delay may be the fault of the medical professional and complications arise when doctors fail to diagnose and/or treat sepsis quickly enough.

Hay & Kilner’s Clinical Negligence team often deal with cases of patients who have suffered from sepsis. Most recently the team has dealt with cases involving:

  • A claimant who suffered from a severe skin and soft tissue infection. A delay in diagnosis resulted in the claimant suffering from a rapidly progressive sepsis. As a consequence, the claimant required a below the knee amputation. Hay & Kilner settled the case for £190,000.00.
  • A fatal case in which a hospital trust failed to recognise, diagnose and treat symptoms which were indicative of pneumonia. The deceased developed a pleural empyema, associated with overwhelming sepsis and multi-organ failure, which could not be reversed. We recovered £50,000.00 in satisfaction of the claim, the majority of which was for the benefit of the deceased claimant’s son.

Sepsis does not discriminate and individuals can be affected by sepsis in many different ways. You, a close family member or a friend may have suffered from sepsis and we understand that it is a very distressing experience for all those involved.

If you think that you have suffered as a result of sepsis and would like to speak to a member of our Clinical Negligence team, please do not hesitate to get in touch.