Sepsis – When Things Go Wrong

4 Min Read

With World Sepsis Day on 13th September, the spotlight switches to this serious condition.

How common is sepsis?

65,000 people in the UK die from sepsis each year. It was thought that 150,000 developed the condition each year. Research commissioned by UK Sepsis Trust actually put the figure much higher, at 260,000 people. The medical director of NHS England, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, has said that far more is needed to combat this ‘terrible toll’.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a response by the body to infection. Infection from bacteria such as septicaemia (also known as ‘blood poisoning’) causes the body’s immune system to react. It leads to inflammation, damage to organs, multi-organ failure and even death.

Who is at risk from sepsis?

Even minor injuries or infections can lead to sepsis. Some people are at higher risk. They include the very young, very old and those with weakened immune systems.

How is sepsis treated?

It can be hard to spot sepsis early. Once in hospital, nursing staff should use early warning scoring systems (often called MEWS or EWS) which should help them spot sepsis developing.

Sepsis should be treated urgently. NICE have produced guidance to assist medical staff. It requires review by a senior doctor and input from a consultant. Blood tests should be done to check for markers of infection and inflammation and also to identity the type of bacteria causing the infection. In the most high risk patients broad spectrum antibiotics should be given within one hour.

Treatment is aimed both at resuscitation – helping support the body’s organs and their operation – and at dealing with the source of infection.

All patients with sepsis should be carefully monitored.

Why is treating sepsis so urgent?

Treatment is urgent. Patients treated within the first hour have an 80% chance of survival. With each hour that passes that chances falls.

When things go wrong

Sadly not everyone is treated in time. It is thought that one in four patients are not treated quickly enough. This may be because they do not contact a doctor early enough. But in some cases it is because of mistakes in their care. The 2 main problems are:

  • Not diagnosing sepsis in time; and
  • Not treating sepsis adequately.

Recent claims

Recent successful claims include:

  • A woman who died after gallbladder surgery. Staff had failed to realise she was developing sepsis over the weekend and she died on the Monday.
  • A woman who died of sepsis after a Caesarean section. Her condition developed very rapidly and by the time staff realised how ill she was it was too late to save her life.
  • A man who was left brain-damaged and hemiplegic (paralysed down one side) after delays in treating a hip infection led to sepsis. Sepsis caused blood clots which travelled to the brain, causing a stroke.
  • A man whose leg had to be amputated above the knee after he fell, suffering a fracture. Damage to the artery behind his knee caused tissue to die and become infected, leading to sepsis.

Sepsis and Negligence

When people suffer avoidable injuries from negligent failures to diagnose or treat sepsis, they or their families may be able to recover damages. Damages can fund the support people need to manage serious conditions or help their families meet their financial loss when someone dies. These claims are complex and it is important to have lawyers with the right experience. Enable Law’s solicitors are accredited experts. If you or someone you know would like advice about a claim, you can speak to us in confidence today on 0800 448 488.

Enable Law is proud to work with UK Sepsis Trust