Sepsis: The Definitive Guide to Everything You Need to Know

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Known in the medical field as the silent epidemic, sepsis (aka septicemia) can be deadly if not caught early enough. In our ultimate guide to sepsis, our experienced Kentucky nursing home abuse lawyer answers some of the most common questions we receive each week, from causes and symptoms to lawsuits and evidence. 

What Is Sepsis?

ultimate guide to sepsis KentuckySepsis—also known as blood poisoning or septicemia—is a potentially deadly complication of an infection. According to the Mayo Clinic definition, it occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection cause inflammation throughout the body, resulting in microscopic blood clots. The blood clots can prevent nutrients and oxygen from reaching organs, causing the organs to fail. If sepsis is not caught and treated early with antibiotics and lots of intravenous fluids, it can lead to septic shock, in which blood pressure drops and the person could die. 

Septicemia is particularly dangerous for the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems—the majority of people living in nursing homes.

What Are the Three Stages of Sepsis?

There are three different stages of septicemia. People often use the word sepsis to describe all three stages. However, the three stages of blood poisoning include sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock, and each stage has its own symptoms and potential health consequences.

What Are the Symptoms of Sepsis?

According to our Kentucky nursing home abuse attorney, the medical field recognizes the three stages of sepsis list above. Below are the symptoms for each stag

Stage One: Sepsis

The first stage is often just called sepsis. Septicemia occurs when an infection is in the bloodstream and there is inflammation in the body. Symptoms of the first stage of include fever, an elevated heart rate, and a high respiration rate. Additionally, there is often medical confirmation of a likely infection. Here are some things to look out for in the first stage:

  • a temperature of more than 101.3° F (38.5° C) or lower than 95° F (35° C);
  • a heart rate faster than 90 beats per minute;
  • a respiratory rate of more than 20 breaths per minute; or
  • suspected or confirmed infection.

Stage Two: Severe Sepsis 

The second stage of blood poisoning is known as severe sepsis. Once sepsis has progressed to severe sepsis, symptoms of the condition include:

  • patches of mottled skin;
  • significantly decreased urine output;
  • an abrupt change in mental status;
  • a decrease in blood platelet count;
  • breathing problems; or
  • heart function abnormality.

Stage Three: Septic shock

The third and most serious stage of septicemia is septic shock. Someone who is experiencing septic shock may have all of the symptoms of sepsis and severe sepsis. Additionally, people with septic shock experience dangerous drops in blood pressure. By the time it’s progressed to septic shock, a person is at risk of suffering from stroke, heart failure, respiratory failure, organ failure, and death.

If your loved one is at any stage of sepsis due to nursing home negligence, now is the time to take action to protect your loved one’s rights. Our nursing home negligence lawyers can help you help your loved one.

What Are the Causes of Sepsis?

Almost any infection can cause blood poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic, some of the common underlying infections that result in sepsis include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Infections of the digestive system, including stomach and colon infections
  • Kidney infections
  • Bladder infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Blood infections
  • Staph infections
  • Strep infections
  • E Coli infections

For many people, these infections do not turn into septicemia because the body releases chemicals to fight the infection or it is treated with antibiotics. However, the body may have a bad reaction to the chemicals produced to fight the infection, and sepsis may result.

Can Nursing Home Care (or Lack Thereof) Lead to Septicemia?

When nursing homes are understaffed, nurses’ time spent with residents suffers. Pressure ulcers, or bedsores, may go unnoticed and untreated. Diapers are not changed when needed, hygiene assistance is not given, and the door is open to infection.

The Nursing Home Complaint Center declares, “Because of nursing home short staffing, we believe needless sepsis infections, septic shock, or wrongful death in our nation’s nursing homes are at unacceptable levels.” The group is calling for states to get much more aggressive in monitoring nursing homes.

Since elderly individuals have an already weakened immune system, their chances of developing septicemia from seemingly minor conditions may actually be quite high.

This means nursing home staff and health care providers must be especially stringent when monitoring patients’ conditions; this includes rotating patients’ positions often to prevent bedsores, where sepsis often originates. When this doesn’t happen, a nursing home sepsis lawsuit can come about.

What Evidence Do You Need for a Successful Sepsis Lawsuit Against a Nursing Home?

Some of the evidence that will be requested and analyzed by our Kentucky nursing home abuse attorney before being presented to the court includes:

  • Nursing home resident records. The record may document when your loved one first showed signs of infection, how the nursing home responded to signs of infection, and when your loved one’s condition progressed from infection to sepsis. Even a lack of documentation could be useful in your legal case, because it may indicate that the nursing home staff failed to monitor your loved one’s health and was, therefore, negligent.
  • Nursing home staffing logs. The staffing logs should show how many people were working each shift at the nursing home. The logs can provide valuable information about whether the nursing home is sufficiently staffed to care for residents.
  • Nursing home policies and procedures. Infection control policies and procedures, necessary sanitary and cleaning procedures, procedures for monitoring residents’ health, and other important information may be found in the nursing home’s written policies and procedures.
  • Nursing home maintenance logs. These logs may show how often bed linens were changed, bathrooms were cleaned, and other infection prevention tasks were completed.
  • Witnesses. Eyewitnesses may have relevant information about what the nursing home did, or did not do, for your loved one. Attorneys can issue interrogatories or request depositions to get the necessary information from eyewitnesses.

How to Find the Best Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney in Kentucky

While finding a good nursing home abuse and neglect attorney is just like finding any other professional, there are certain factors that you should consider when finding the right attorney for your specific case.

  • Read reviews. Just like you would do to hire a plumber or an electrician, reading reviews and testimonials from past clients of an attorney will go a long way to determining if an attorney is right for you.
  • Experience is important. Not every nursing home abuse attorney has experience with sepsis cases. During your free consultation, don’t forget to ask about the number of sepsis cases your attorney has handled, what the outcomes have been and what other traits make he/she stand out above the competition.
  • Go with your gut. After you’ve done all the digging you can by reading reviews and interviewing potential attorneys, choosing a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney based on your comfort level is also important. While you always want an attorney who will get you the maximum compensation, you want to make sure who you choose is a good communicator and keeps you in the loop. For this, you’ll have to feel out the potential candidates and make the decision you feel is best.