Importance of Early Diagnosis of Sepsis

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Sepsis can be a devastating illness, leaving sufferers with life changing injuries such as limb loss. Early treatment can help to reduce the chance of suffering from these types of serious injuries because many cases of sepsis are caused by bacterial infections and can be treated with antibiotics.

As a Medical Negligence lawyer, I’ve seen the very real impact of sepsis on my clients' lives and reading the sad news of Jayne Carpenter, a nurse who took her life after losing 3 limbs after getting sepsis really hit home.

Jayne Carpenter went to her doctor with a cough, but was then diagnosed with sepsis, pneumonia and spent two months in a coma and lost both her legs and one of her arms. 

Her husband Rob said that after losing her limbs, she put ‘all her effort into regaining her life’ and that ‘she amazed us as family’. She became a sepsis awareness advocate and raised huge amounts of money for charity, but she sadly started to decline and ended her life in November 2020.

Although there was no suggestion that medical negligence played a part in Jayne’s case, I have seen clients whose sepsis diagnosis has been missed and the impact on them and their loved ones.

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Sepsis Diagnosis Guidelines

National institute for Health and Care Excellent (NICE) has specific guidelines to help medical staff diagnose sepsis better and the UK Sepsis Trust has developed ‘Sepsis Six’ pathway. This is a screening tool and process that health practitioners can use to help them identify if sepsis is a risk.

The Sepsis Six tool asks a number of questions, and if any 1 of a number of red flags are present, the health worker needs to start the Sepsis 6 pathway. This is:

  • Give Oxygen
  • Take blood
  • Give IV antibiotics
  • Give IV fluids
  • Check serial lactates (this can identify possible sepsis)
  • Measure urine output

All of these things can help to quickly diagnose and start treatment for someone who has possible sepsis.

The Sepsis Six pathway is used in everyone over the age of 12 years old, but different processes are followed for young children and pregnant women.

With so much guidance in place, and with some fairly easy steps to follow for healthcare professionals, hopefully cases of sepsis are being picked up more quickly so that more people can avoid the life changing injuries sepsis can bring. 

Be Sepsis Savvy

The UK Sepsis Trust has developed a campaign for everyone to become ‘Sepsis Savvy’. They want you to know more about Sepsis so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

245,000 people develop Sepsis and nearly 50,000 die – it’s a medical emergency and need to be acted on very quickly.

Some groups of people are more at risk. They are:

  • Older people over 65
  • Children, especially those under 1
  • People with chronic illnesses
  • Anyone with a weak immune system
  • People without a spleen

To help people to understand the symptoms of sepsis and try to recognise it early on, UK Sepsis Trust has developed a quick way to remember the symptoms – they spell Sepsis. They are:

S – slurred speech
E – extreme shaking or muscle pain
P – passing no urine in a day
S – severe breathlessness
I – it feels like you’re going to die
S – skin mottled or pale

To find out more about sepsis so you can protect yourself and your loved ones, watch the UK Sepsis Trust video below.

How Can We Help?

If you or someone you love has been affected by sepsis and you have concerns about your treatment, I, or one of my colleagues, will be happy to have an informal chat with you about the options open to you.

Hopefully talking about Sepsis and its signs and symptoms can help more people recognise it early, ask the question ‘Is this Sepsis?’ and get treatment for it as quickly as possible.

UK Sepsis Trust - Be Sepsis Savvy

UK Sepsis Trust wants everyone to be educated about sepsis and how to spot the signs. Watch this video to find out more.

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