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Did sepsis play a role in your loved one's death?

Sepsis, more commonly called "blood poisoning," kills more people than cancer. However, few people have ever heard of it until they either experience it first-hand through a loved one.

Sepsis is a wide-spread infection and immunological response to that infection. Inflammation spreads throughout the body, blood clots begin to form and organ failure can ensue.

The worst part of it all: It's often a needless complication that comes about because a doctor, nurse or other health care professional was careless about personal hygiene before examining a sick patient or a simple infection that could have been cured with an early round of antibiotics was ignored until it was too late.

Sometimes it occurs because a medical tool like a catheter isn't properly sterilized before it is inserted into the patient's body. It's also been known to arise after surgery because of things like surgical tools or sponges being left inside the patient.

It's estimated that only 10 to 30 percent of patients with sepsis receive the care that they need to recover from this deadly condition. An even more sobering fact is that one-third of patients who are treated in intensive care units for sepsis don't survive.

The problem is growing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that sepsis accounted for only 621,000 hospitalizations in the year 2000. That figure jumped to 1,14 million by 2008. While some cases of sepsis were community-acquired, many were healthcare-associated.

One of the problems may be that early warning signs of sepsis are ignored by medical personnel, especially in older patients or those who are already seriously ill. Since early warning signs can be subtle, complaints of being too hot or too cold, a rapid heart rate, skin rashes, decreased urination, and confusion, those things may be chalked up to anything from the patient simply being difficult to side effects of the primary illness, if they're noted at all.

Any time sepsis plays a major role in the death of a loved one, especially if he or she was already under medical care when the condition started, there's a possibility that he or she was the victim of medical malpractice. Consider consulting an attorney about the possibility and to find out how you can learn more about what really happened in those last few days.

Source: World Sepsis Day, "Sepsis Facts," accessed Jan. 24, 2017

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