Sepsis Awareness Month: Shining light on an illness ‘more common than heart attacks, deadlier than stroke’

By wyomingmedicalcenter Sep 6, 2016

WATCH: This short film from the Sepsis Alliance details real stories of sepsis patients and family members.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, a time devoted to raising awareness for an illness that strikes more than 27 million people a year. According to Global Sepsis Alliance, that makes sepsis “more common than heart attacks and more deadly than stroke.”

So what is sepsis? Sepsis isn’t caused by a particular bug, virus or bacterium. Rather, it is your body’s toxic response to infection. While your body’s immune system was designed to fight off infection, it sometimes goes into overdrive and begins to attack your body. Many infections can lead to sepsis, but pneumonia and infections of your abdomen, kidneys or bloodstream are more likely to cause it than others.

“When sepsis causes organs to fail, it is called severe sepsis. When it is accompanied by low blood pressure, it is called septic shock and carries the highest risk of death and complications,” says the Sepsis Alliance. “Sepsis is a medical emergency and must be treated quickly and properly for survival.”

Since 2009, Wyoming Medical Center has partnered with the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, a worldwide effort to reduce deaths caused by sepsis. We have adopted an evidence-based approach to treatment of severe sepsis and septic shock. Our focus is a patient-centered team approach to early identification and treatment of the severe infection.

Upon arrival to our Emergency Department, patients who are at high risk are screened for sepsis. Patients who are already in the hospital are screened every 12 hours.  If a patient develops severe sepsis or septic shock, a rapid cascade of events occur.

To improve the outcome of sepsis patients, Wyoming Medical Center has implemented the following:

Rapid patient transfer from emergency department or general floors to the intensive care unit.

  • Code Sep is announced throughout the hospital. This alerts physicians and staff of a potentially life-threatening infection and mobilizes the sepsis team for immediate treatment.
  • House-wide annual sepsis education for staff.
  • Public sepsis broadcasts from Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases 

These actions have helped Wyoming Medical Center achieve a 40 percent reduction in severe sepsis and septic shock related deaths, and our mortality rate for these complications is 30 percent below national average. Our Code Sep strategy has been nationally recognized  at the Critical Care Symposium and the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) conference.

But we will not rest on our laurels. Our Sepsis Team and infectious disease specialists continue to work to improve care at every step in the treatment model. 

Get to know sepsis

Any infection, no matter how minor, in any part of the body can cause sepsis. While anyone can become septic, it is more common in the very young, the very old and in people with underlying health conditions.

While there is no single sign of sepsis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you seek medical help if someone exhibits two or more of the following symptoms:

S – Shivering, fever or very cold
E – Extreme pain or general discomfort
P – Pale or discolored skin
S – Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
I – “I feel like I might die.”
S – Shortness of breath

Seek medical help immediately if:

  • A child younger than 2 months has a fever, appears lethargic, isn’t eating, exhibits a change in normal behavior or has an unusual rash.
  • Someone has confusion, dizziness, fast heartbeat, fast breathing, fever, chills, rash or dizziness.

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