Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Threat of Sepsis and a Missed Diagnosis

The Los Angeles Times has printed a news story about a study into the lasting impact of sepsis in elderly individuals. The study was originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Sepsis is a very serious medical condition in which a person's bloodstream is overwhelmed with an infection. If sepsis is not diagnosed quickly, the affected person can experience organ failure and die. Sepsis can only be treated if it is diagnosed quickly and appropriately. 

The researchers compared a large sample of elderly patients who suffered from sepsis against an even larger sample of elderly patients who were hospitalized and did not have sepsis. The researchers found that those elderly patients who suffered from sepsis and survived were much more likely to develop problems with thinking and memory. Those patients who suffered from sepsis were also more likely to develop a physical limitation with their activities of daily living like walking, dressing, or bathing.

The nursing staff in a nursing home is responsible for monitoring the patient to check for any "significant changes" in a resident's condition. Symptoms of sepsis are often confused with symptoms of the flu or just general lethargy. It is the nursing staff's responsibility, however, to contact the resident's physician if it appears the resident is ill. Often what happens is a resident has contracted sepsis and the nursing staff does not act quickly. This delay denies the sick resident the opportunity to get immediate medical treatment. As mentioned above, sepsis needs to be treated immediately. If sepsis isn't treated immediately the illness leads to severe and lasting injury or death.

Another way in which sepsis is at the heart of litigation is from infected bedsores. Often what happens is the nursing staff does not monitor residents who are at risk for developing bedsores. The bedsores develop and then are a "target" for deadly bacteria. The deadly bacteria enters the body through the bedsore and the bacteria leads to sepsis. This dangerous chain of events can be stopped if proper measures are taken so that bedsores do not develop.

Attorney Mike Keating has handled several cases involving residents who unnecessarily contracted sepsis while a resident at a nursing home. If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect, please contact Illinois Nursing Home Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or All initial consultations are confidential and free.