Sepsis is a potentially fatal complication of an infection that occurs when bacteria enters an open wound, often through a catheter or intravenous (IV) line. Without prompt medical intervention, sepsis can rapidly progress into severe sepsis or septic shock, which can kill in a matter of days or even hours.
Though often associated with hospitals, sepsis is also common in nursing homes. While dangerous for everyone, sepsis is especially hazardous for elderly individuals, who are at increased risk of dying or sustaining serious long-term harm.
If your elderly father, mother, spouse, or other loved one developed sepsis, severe sepsis, or septic shock due to medical errors or poor quality care at a nursing home, you should discuss the situation with an experienced nursing home neglect attorney. If sepsis was caused by negligence or inadequate care, the facility may be liable, and financial compensation may be available for medical bills, pain and suffering, funeral and burial expenses, and other damages. Even more importantly, filing a claim or lawsuit gives you a chance to pursue justice and hold the negligent party accountable. To review your family’s legal options in a free and confidential legal consultation, contact the Wieand Law Firm LLC.
What is Sepsis and How Do You Get it?
Sepsis is sometimes called “bacteremia,” but it is inaccurate to use these terms interchangeably. Bacteremia is a condition caused by bacteria in the bloodstream. If high levels of bacteria are present, bacteremia becomes sepsis, which is more severe.
The term “septicemia” adds to the confusion. Septicemia specifically refers to the actual infection, whereas sepsis is the resulting complication. Sepsis is also different from septic shock, which is an extremely advanced and critical form of sepsis.
Sepsis progresses through three distinct phases or stages:
- Sepsis – A person is diagnosed with sepsis when (1) he or she has any type of infection, and (2) at least two of the following symptoms are present:
- Respiratory rate above 20 breaths per minute
- Heart rate above 90 beats per minute
- Extremely low or high body temperature (below 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or above 101 degrees)
- Severe Sepsis – Sepsis progresses to severe sepsis when, in addition to meeting the diagnostic criteria for sepsis above, the patient also develops at least one of the following symptoms, which could indicate organ failure:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Abnormally low urine production
- Confusion or mental changes
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach pain
- Septic Shock – Severe sepsis progresses to septic shock when, in addition to exhibiting symptoms of severe sepsis, the person also experiences an extreme drop in blood pressure.
Pneumonia and Sepsis in the Elderly
While any infection can potentially lead to sepsis, certain infections have a higher risk of causing sepsis than others. These infections include:
- Abdominal Infections
- Kidney Infections
Pneumonia, in particular, is so common in nursing homes that it even has its own name: nursing home-acquired pneumonia (NHAP). According to a recent study published in BioMed Research International, NHAP “is currently the second most common type of infection among patients in [long-term care] facilities in the USA.” Pneumonia is dangerous under any circumstances, and by also increasing a person’s risk of sepsis, becomes even more of a health hazard.
Because elderly individuals are more susceptible to infections than younger, healthier people, they are already at heightened risk of developing sepsis. When nursing home staff members are careless, inexperienced, overworked, or unsupervised, the risk of exposing a patient to bacteria amplifies the risk even further. For example, sepsis can develop if a bedsore is not promptly cleaned and covered. This is more likely to occur in an understaffed nursing home which failed monitor and prevent the bedsore from developing.
Other than neglect of open bed sores, other negligent acts that can lead a nursing home resident to develop preventable sepsis include:
- Failure to sanitize and disinfect surfaces or equipment
- Failure to help residents shower or bathe on a regular basis
- Failure to provide clean and sanitary linens
- Failure to treat wounds, injuries, or infections promptly
Septic Shock Mortality Rate
Unfortunately, septic shock has a poor prognosis and very high mortality rate (likelihood of resulting in death). According to a study recently published in the Annals of Intensive Care, septic shock mortality rates ranged between 37% and 45% among a population of 543 patients. In the study, “Among 244 patients deceased in the hospital, 78 (32%) died within the first three days of ICU admission (early deaths) and 166 (68%) died thereafter (late deaths) in the ICU… or in the hospital.” Increasing age was identified as a risk factor for both early and late deaths, meaning seniors are vulnerable.
The same study revealed that:
- 51% of the patients required renal replacement therapy to compensate for kidney failure
- 88% of the patients required mechanical ventilation
- In 53% of the patients, the infection began in the lungs (such as pneumonia)
Contact a Nursing Home Sepsis Lawsuit Attorney
Sepsis is often a preventable condition, yet claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year in the United States. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences estimates that among the roughly 1 million U.S. residents who develop sepsis annually, anywhere from 28% to 50%, or about 280,000 to 500,000 people, die from the condition. Many of these victims are nursing home residents.
If your parent, grandparent, spouse, or other loved one died or suffered serious complications after developing sepsis in a nursing home, compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses may be available. But you don’t have to go through the legal process alone. Let Wieand Law Firm LLC provide your family with the personalized representation you deserve in the fight for justice on your loved one’s behalf.
We are experienced nursing home injury attorneys who are qualified to handle personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits. We may be able to help you obtain a settlement or favorable verdict in your case. To discuss your nursing home sepsis claim in a free and confidential legal consultation, contact us today.