Sepsis – Life-threat that can start with a minor infection

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can start with a simple minor infection. The bacteria causing that infection start a chain reaction of infection, with the bacteria winding its way throughout the body, and infecting all the organs. Without prompt and proper medical treatment, organs and tissues are damaged and ultimately, organ failure leads to death. The condition affects more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. every year and at least 250,000 are fatally inflicted.

Although many sepsis infections have their start outside a hospital setting, according to the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “on any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one health-care associated infection."

Health-Care Associated Infection Defined

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that are spread while receiving medical treatment or care. HAIs can occur in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings. Infections can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and can be spread through contaminated medical equipment, the hands of healthcare workers, or the environment. 

The CDC defines a health-care associated infection (HAI) as “infections patients can get while receiving medical treatment in a healthcare facility.” The infections are a major threat to the life of a patient, yet are “often preventable.” If the infection was “preventable,” it most likely was caused by the negligence of hospital personnel. This is particularly true since a health associated infection is not likely the reason the patient was admitted to the hospital.

Sepsis is an HAI

One of the most common causes of sepsis is the Staphylococcus aureus, better known as simply “staph.” Although about 30 percent of all people carry staph in their nose, for those that do not normally carry staph, a staph infection can be deadly. The mortality rate for HAI sepsis, which is caused by staph, is as high as 40 percent, particularly for those who were treated in emergency departments or intensive care units.

Staph preys particularly on those in hospital settings who have “weakened immune systems or have undergone procedures such as surgery or have intravenous catheters.” Some strains of staph are antibiotic resistant, which means almost certain death to those who are infected with that particular strain.

Symptoms of Sepsis

According to the CDC Director, "Detecting sepsis early and starting immediate treatment is often the difference between life and death." Some of the main symptoms to watch for include:

  • Clammy or sweaty skin.
  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Extreme pain or discomfort.
  • Fever or shivering. Complaints of feeling very cold.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or notice that your hospitalized family member or friend is suffering from any of these symptoms, alert a healthcare professional. Do not be brushed off or allow your concerns to be dismissed. It truly is a life or death matter.

What Are the Stages of Sepsis?

Sepsis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's response to an infection triggers inflammation throughout the body. Sepsis can progress through several stages, including:

  1. Mild Sepsis: The initial phase of sepsis, identified by symptoms such as fever, shivers, quick breathing, and elevated heart rate. The immune system is still capable of successfully combating the infection during this stage.
  2. Moderate Sepsis: This phase is marked by serious symptoms like low blood pressure, fast breathing, and confusion/disorientation. The immune system is starting to have difficulty fighting off the infection, despite still being able to do so.
  3. Severe Sepsis: This phase presents with symptoms such as decreased blood pressure, dysfunction of organs, and altered mental function. The immune system fails to effectively control the infection, putting the person in danger of septic shock.
  4. Septic Shock: The most critical stage of sepsis, marked by life-threatening low blood pressure, organ malfunction, and altered mental function. Without timely treatment, septic shock can result in death.

You Can File a Lawsuit Against a Hospital for HAI Sepsis

When the negligence of hospital policies or procedures is the cause of a patient contracting sepsis, the hospital can be sued for malpractice. It seems as though it would be an easy case; the patient did not have sepsis upon entering the hospital, but contracted it while being treated for another condition or disease. But, there are some major issues that are generally created by hospital insurers and attorneys:

  • How did the patient acquire the infection that led to sepsis?
  • Why was it not promptly diagnosed and treated?
  • Could it have been prevented?
  • Who was responsible for the patient getting the infection?

If you were the patient who suffered, you may bring a medical malpractice claim against the hospital and anyone, including the doctor, who may be responsible.  Family members of someone who died due to HIA sepsis may bring a wrongful death action against the hospital.

How a Sepsis Attorney Can Help

Proving that hospital negligence caused your sepsis, or your loved one’s death due to sepsis, is not an easy task. Although there are no guarantees in the legal system, a skilled Chicago sepsis attorney like one you will find at the Blumenshine Law Group, is vital to the success of your case. Expert testimony will be required to prove the hospital did not comply with the appropriate standard of care.

The law requires you to bring your hospital malpractice claim within a certain time after the incident. Contact us as soon as possible at our Chicago office for a free consultation (312)766-1000 or email We will review the circumstances of your HIA sepsis, or the case of your deceased family member, and advise you on how to proceed.

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