Sepsis

If you or a loved one begins to show the signs of sepsis as a result of a serious illness, Kindred clinicians are here to help. We will create a sepsis care plan to help aid in your recovery.

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s extreme, sometimes life-threatening response to an infection. It happens when a patient who has an infection (in their skin, lungs, urinary tract or somewhere else) releases dangerously high levels of infection-fighting chemicals into their bloodstream. The effects of sepsis can’t be easily reversed, and without medical treatment, it can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and can even result in death. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, can put patients at risk for infections that can lead to sepsis. The National Institute of Health states that over 1 million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis annually.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of sepsis can help a patient recognize what is happening and obtain the correct medical treatment quickly.

The following is a list of sepsis symptoms and signs that can appear either on their own or together:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Extreme pain or discomfort

According to the Center for Disease Control, anyone can get sepsis, however, certain risk factors can elevate an individual’s likelihood of developing it. Patients who are over the age of 65 or under the age of 1 are at a higher risk for sepsis. Patients with weakened immune systems are also more susceptible, as are patients with chronic medical conditions like lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease. Another group of patients at risk are those with implanted medical devices, such as IV catheters or breathing tubes. 

Sepsis Complications 

Having sepsis can lead to additional medical complications for some patients. One of these complications is septic shock. This happens when a patient with sepsis has low blood pressure that does not improve with fluids. The next step in treatment would be a medication called a vasopressor, which can help keep the blood flowing into the organs. Without treatment, insufficient blood flow can result in organs not getting enough oxygen, which will lead to failure of those organs (the brain, kidneys, lungs, or heart). Low blood pressure is a sign of sepsis shock and should be monitored closely. Septic shock can potentially lead to other problems like chronic pain, poorly functioning organs, post-intensive care syndrome, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Any infection can trigger sepsis, so it is critical to stay healthy and avoid infections,” says Dr. Sean Muldoon, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Kindred Healthcare’s Hospital Division. “Consider getting vaccinations against infections such as pneumonia and chicken pox, as well as an annual flu shot to avoid potential exposure.” Good hygiene practices such as washing hands frequently, keeping wounds, cuts and burns clean and free of debris can help prevent sepsis. “Knowing and looking for signs of sepsis when a patient has an infection is important,” says Dr. Muldoon. “Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if the symptoms you are having could be sepsis.”

Additional steps to preventing sepsis:

  • When a patient has a bacterial infection, it is critical to follow the doctor’s instructions regarding antibiotic treatment.
  • Treat fungal and parasite infections as quickly as possible.
  • If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s orders to keep it under control.

What Is the Best Path to Sepsis Recovery? 

If the condition is discovered quickly enough, sepsis treatment can be effective. Medications such as antibiotics can be prescribed and administered through an IV, to distribute them into the bloodstream quickly. If the infection worsens, medications such as vasopressors and corticosteroids may be prescribed. Sepsis treatments can be administered in hospital and long-term acute care hospital settings, as they both have the ability to diagnosis and treat sepsis. Once a patient has medically recovered from sepsis, rehabilitation may be needed to assist the patient with learning to walk again or simply taking care of daily tasks.

All Kindred Hospitals across the country are working to achieve disease-specific certification from The Joint Commission for sepsis.

We have proven success in treating patients with sepsis and have already instituted the following sepsis protocol in all of our hospitals:

  • A review of every new admission’s chart to establish whether or not they qualify for our Sepsis Program.
  • An assessment and evaluation with every shift change of all patients who qualify for our Sepsis Program.
  • Interventions for any patient who screens positive, including blood lactate level and blood cultures run prior to administration of antibiotics.
  • An individualized plan of care and creation of interdisciplinary goals.
  • Extra care and education for patients and families enrolled in the Sepsis Program.

Success Spotlight: Bonnie’s Story

Bonnie was admitted to a general hospital for exploratory surgery to address a gastric ulcer. Unfortunately after the procedure she developed sepsis and respiratory failure, requiring her to be placed on a ventilator and subsequently given a feeding tube as she was unable to take anything by mouth. She also started treatment with IV antibiotics for the infection. She remained at the hospital until she was stable enough to be transferred to Kindred Hospital where she would receive medical care, respiratory therapy and rehabilitation.

At the beginning of her stay, Bonnie was completely dependent on her caregivers for all her needs, and although she was weakened by her ordeal, she remained upbeat and positive from the outset and started to make progress. Her first milestone was reached when she was able to be taken off the ventilator, thanks to the diligent work from her team of respiratory therapists. Her infection was successfully brought under control with ongoing IV antibiotic therapy, and with help from her physical and occupational therapists Bonnie made excellent progress and was able to get up from bed, stand on her own and walk with the aid of a rolling walker.

“I am very grateful to all of the staff at Kindred for helping me work toward my goals,” Bonnie shared. “I am surprised at how well I have done and can’t wait to get home again!”