What is Sepsis?

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to infection -- and a life-threatening medical emergency. More than 1.5 million people contract sepsis in the United States each year. Over 200,000 of those people die from sepsis. As such, preventing infections that can lead to sepsis is a critical task in any hospital.

Who is most at risk for sepsis?

Anyone can contract an infection that leads to sepsis, but certain populations are at higher risk. These include:

  • Individuals aged 65+ or less than one-year-old
  • Those with weakened immune systems
  • People with chronic diseases, such as lung or kidney disease, diabetes, or cancer
  • Patients who have recently had surgery, have an open wound or burn, or invasive device, such as a catheter

What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis?

Symptoms of sepsis include an elevated heart rate, low blood pressure, and shortness of breath. A person with sepsis will also appear confused or disoriented. And since sepsis is the body’s response to an infection, common signs of infection will often be present. These include fever, chills, clammy or sweaty skin, and extreme pain or discomfort.

How do hospitals prevent sepsis?

Preventing sepsis is rooted in preventing the infections that can lead to sepsis. With healthcare-acquired infections affecting one in every 20 to 30 patients in the United States, this is no small task. Every person who enters the hospital plays a role in prevention.

Proper handwashing is one of the most critical components of infection prevention in a healthcare setting. Vaccinating staff and patients against influenza, pneumonia, and other illnesses also reduce the risk of infection. An antibiotic stewardship team ensures antibiotics are administered properly and remain effective. And when patients arrive with an infection, precautions including proper signage and the use of personal protective equipment minimize the risk the infection spreads.

What if I think I have sepsis?

If you have an infection that isn't healing, or if you suspect that you or a loved one has sepsis, seek medical attention immediately. Sepsis is a medical emergency.

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