What Is Sepsis?
Sepsis can be a life threatening condition that occurs when the body has a chemical imbalance due to an ongoing infection that can result in damage to multiple organ systems. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, this will result in multiple organ failure, a drop in blood pressure, and possibly death. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis. Nearly 270,000 of those people die each year from sepsis, and one in three patients who die at a hospital have sepsis.
Because of the dangers associated with sepsis, if you or a family member staying at a nursing home or skilled rehabilitation facility have signs of an infection while staying there, it is critical for the nursing home staff to report any of these signs to your family member’s attending doctor. This way the infection can be treated before it progresses to sepsis, septic shock, and spreads throughout the body while causing massive organ failure.
How Do Patients Get Sepsis?
A common place for sepsis to develop is from a surgical site infection. The Joint Commission estimates about 500,000 surgical site infections develop yearly in the United States. However, sepsis can also develop from other sources of an infection such as ongoing UTI issues, an infected bed sore, or an impacted or perforated bowel due to constipation. When an infection develops at a surgical site or a bed sore, there are certain signs that the nursing staff treating your family member should be able to recognize and report to the attending doctor. These symptoms include a wound that has redness, swelling, is painful to touch, has a foul odor, and is oozing. If the infection is not from a surgical site, symptoms of an infection can include a high white blood cell count, a fever, confusion, and lethargy. Treatment for these types of infections usually involves antibiotics.
The nursing staff and attending doctor treating your family member in the nursing home or skilled rehabilitation facility should also be familiar with the symptoms of sepsis and septic shock. These include a respiratory rate that is greater than 22, a systolic blood pressure of 100 mg or less (the upper number on your blood pressure), an altered mental status, high white blood cell count, a fever, aches and pain throughout the body, a confirmed infection, the need for medication to maintain an adequate blood pressure (such as greater than or equal to 65 mm hg), and high levels of acid in your blood after receiving adequate fluid replacement.
Determining If A Nursing Home Was Negligent In A Sepsis Case
According to the Nursing Home Reform Act §483.10(g)(14) a nursing home must immediately inform the resident, their physician, and the resident’s representatives when there is a significant change in the resident’s physical, mental, or psychosocial status (that is a deterioration in health, mental, or psychosocial status in either life-threatening conditions or clinical complications). Therefore, if the staff is not recognizing or reporting the signs of a serious infection, and death or other serious harm occurs to your family member as a result, they can be held liable for that.
If the nursing home staff does report those signs of an infection to your family member’s attending doctor and nothing is done by that attending doctor with that information, the fault for any harm caused to your family member from that infection could be on the attending doctor. This will all depend on the facts of the case though. In some instances, the Department of Health may investigate the nursing home, and if it finds that the nursing home staff violated the Nursing Home Reform Act and other regulations for nursing homes in treating your family member, they will cite the home and require a plan of correction by the nursing home to fix those violations.
Getting Help With Your Sepsis Case
Because of the serious implications that can result when someone becomes septic though, it is important for an infection to be treated before it becomes an out of control case of septic shock. The Nursing Home Lawyers at Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling sepsis nursing home cases. If you lost a family member or loved one due to sepsis that developed at a nursing home, the attorneys at The Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.