Sepsis negligence claims

  • If sepsis isn’t diagnosed and treated quickly, the consequences can be severe
  • If you have experienced delayed treatment or diagnosis, then you may be able to claim compensation

Sepsis is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening condition that occurs when the body causes injury to its organs and tissues when responding to an infection. The common signs of sepsis include increased heart rate or breathing, fever and confusion.

Negligence can easily occur when the symptoms are not recognised by medical professionals, and if not treated quickly the consequences can be organ failure, limb loss, or even death.

The early signs of a sepsis can include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Very low body temperature
  • Urinating less than normal
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Causes and diagnosis

The majority of sepsis cases are due to bacterial infections, but they can also take place due to fungal infections.

Infectious agents, such as bacteria begin infecting almost any organ location or implanted device. The infecting agents or their toxins then spread into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, they are able to spread to almost any other organ system.

Some individuals are at an increased risk of sepsis, including:

  • The young and the elderly
  • Individuals who are extremely ill due to an infection
  • Individuals in intensive care
  • Individuals with weak or compromised immune systems
  • Individuals with devices such as IV catheters, breathing tubes, or other devices
  • Individuals with extensive burns
  • Individuals with severe trauma

The adult patient should have a proven or suspected source of an infection (usually bacterial) and have at least two of the following problems to be diagnosed as having sepsis:

  • Altered mental status (for example, altered consciousness, mental confusion or delirium)
  • Fast respiratory rate (> 22 breaths/minute)
  • Low blood pressure(≤ 100 mm Hg systolic)

However, patients may have many other signs and symptoms that can occur with sepsis, such as

  • Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Fever
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • A reduced carbon dioxide (PaCO2) level in the blood
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shivering
  • Facial flushing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low urine production
  • Skin discoloration
  • Dysfunction of one or more organs
  • Shock, and
  • Sleepiness.

In most cases, the definitive diagnosis of sepsis is made by a physician in conjunction with laboratory tests.

Septic shock

Septic shock is a condition whereby an infection causes a dangerous drop in systolic blood pressure. As well as low blood pressure, individuals may also experience dizziness or light-headedness, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, behavioural changes, and low or high body temperature.

Treatment

The majority of sepsis cases require patients to be hospitalised and treated with the appropriate medication, included intravenous antibiotics. They will also require therapy to support the dysfunction of organs. There is no time for delay in sepsis cases, as the risk of mortality can increase the longer the individual is not prescribed the correct antibiotics.

In addition to antibiotics, two other major therapeutic interventions, organ-system support and surgery, may be needed. In extreme cases, amputation is sometimes required to save a patient’s life.

Sepsis can develop both in hospital and in patients being treated at home. If diagnosed at home, an immediate referral to A&E is likely to be necessary. Almost all patients diagnosed with sepsis are treated in the hospital; Critical care medicine physicians, and pulmonary specialists, infectious disease specialists, and occasionally a toxicologist or a surgeon may need to be consulted, depending upon the patient’s condition and underlying medical cause of the sepsis.

Prognosis

The prognosis of sepsis patients relates to the severity and stage of sepsis, alongside the underlying health status of the individual.

There are a huge number of complications that can occur with sepsis. In general, the complications are due to organ dysfunction, damage, or loss. Death can occur when multi-organ dysfunction takes place.

Physicians agree that the faster the patient with sepsis is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis and fewer complications, if any, for the patient.

Risk factors

The risk factors associated with sepsis can be reduced by several methods. One of the most effective ways is to prevent any infections from occurring in the first place, with methods such as good hygiene, vaccines and avoidance of sources of infection. Immediate treatment of infection, should it occur, also works effectively as it does not give the infection a chance to spread into the blood. This method is particularly important in individuals who are at a higher risk of infection, including the elderly, people with diabetes or cancer, and people with suppressed immune systems.

Consequences

The consequences of sepsis can range from surgery, amputations, or even death. Sepsis can cause a long-term disability for a person if left untreated or unnoticed and the long-term support required will vary from case to case.

Support for you when making a claim

If you or someone you know has suffered from sepsis where there may have been a delay in treatment and diagnosis, then you may have a claim for compensation. You or your family should contact a solicitor as soon as possible. The sooner we can begin work on your claim the sooner we can begin to help you.

We have a wide range of contacts with organisations who can help you and can work closely with you. These include:

  • Case managers who will assess and organise any support and care you may need;
  • Support workers who will visit you on a regular basis to provide you support and help;
  • Community rehabilitation such as occupational therapy.

Whilst we deal with your claim, our specialist community care team can also provide advice on your entitlement to health and social care support at home whist your claim is being progressed.

If you believe that you or someone you know has suffered as a result of clinical negligence please contact Anne Cassidy.

We have offices in London, Richmond, Southampton, Guildford, Lymington and Woking. We deal with clients throughout the country and we will visit you at your home, hospital or rehabilitation unit.

Contact our solicitors

Get in touch with our legal experts for advice.