Sepsis- A Life Threatening Condition Arising Due to the Body’s Response to Infection

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to fight an infection leads to widespread inflammation. Medical practitioners are the last line of defense for patients affected with Sepsis. If these patients are not keenly monitored and treated, their condition might get worse, leading to organ failure within a short span of time.

A nationwide advocacy group called Sepsis Alliance, which is based in San Diego, says, Sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals. Over 1 million people are affected severely by this disease every year in the U.S, and nearly 50% of them succumb to it. Treating Sepsis incurs an annual cost of $24 billion- one of the costliest conditions to be treated by these hospitals.

Many hospitals in the country have programs to help reduce sepsis, but only some of them have designated sepsis coordinators and nurses- a state which has to change.

Such a change could be promoted by the recent federal rules. Since 2015, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has required hospitals to evaluate and report their efforts to treat sepsis. They must ensure that certain steps are executed within the first 3 hours of identification of sepsis. These include culturing blood samples, administering intravenous fluids, and treating patients with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

It is hard to diagnose sepsis, but if diagnosed early, it can be effectively treated. If not, patients may proceed into a septic shock, causing organ failure and death.

An integrated medical system in Orange County, called theSt. Joseph Hoag Health, California, which has seven hospitals, has implemented an anti-sepsis program in 2015, and employed dedicated sepsis nurses throughout its system. Since then, four other hospitals too have adopted this.

Each year, approximately 8,000 sepsis cases are treated by the St. Joseph Hoag Health system, at an expense of $130 million. They developed sepsis care checklists and a mobile app to provide coordinated care for sepsis risk patients. The core of the initiative are the sepsis nurses who are very much familiar with the treatment of the disease.

Speed is crucial in treating sepsis. Patients who are quickly treated for sepsis will more probably survive. Cecille Lamorena, in-charge of sepsis nurses at St. Joseph Hospital, says “It’s so much easier to give someone salt water and antibiotics. It’s a lot harder when they are in the ICU and you are trying to get them off a ventilator”.

And even after a patient has who has survived sepsis has been discharged from the hospital, he or she needs some weeks to months to recover. Sepsis nurses also take up the duty of informing the patients’ families on what is to be expected of their wards both during their stay at the hospital and after they are discharged.

These efforts taken by the St. Joseph Hoag Health are in fact working. The hospital system’s death rate for severe sepsis/shock has decreased from 15 to 12% from 2015 to 2016. There has also been a reduction in the duration of the patients’ stay in the hospitals. Further, there has been a 50% reduction in the number of patients who proceeded into sepsis shock.

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