If you’re like me, the only time you may have heard the word sepsis used is if you are watching a medical TV drama, and they throw that diagnosis around like we are supposed to know what it means. Well, you should because it is a serious problem that can affect anyone. So, how do you work on improving outcomes in sepsis patients? It’s best to break this issue down into more manageable items to understand so that we can grasp ways to make improvements.
Sepsis is any kind of infection that takes over and overwhelms the body causing life-threatening or other harmful reactions. Because sepsis is pretty much any type of infection in any part of the body, you are looking at trying to control a whole host of problematic items. Most sepsis patient have infections such as blood poisoning, urinary tract infection, and infections in the lungs leading to pneumonia or similar problems. Unfortunately, many patients develop sepsis when under the care of a medical professional while in a hospital. A lot of times this is due to poor hygiene practices from the healthcare professionals. It is never intentional, but setting up new practices and standards within a healthcare facility will help lessen the number of cases of sepsis that occur.
This may sound like a broken record when it comes to those that are the most susceptible, but the list includes:
Those with vulnerable or compromised health systems are prone to sepsis because their bodies aren’t able to fight infections as well and the infection can spread throughout the body causing more problems. Talking to a doctor about the possibility of acquiring sepsis may be a conversation that some individuals should have, and being aware of symptoms can be key to taking a proactive stance rather than playing catch-up after sepsis has taken ahold.
Sepsis is very serious and due to the fact that it can affect so many parts of the body, plus the fact that it can spread, it is necessary to treat it in the hospital. Most patients start off with a round of antibiotics as soon as possible. This may include broad spectrum antibiotics but change to a specific antibiotic that attacks specifically what is infected. IV fluids are administered to help with blood pressure stabilization and also allows for quicker administration of drugs as needed.
Depending upon specific requirements of patients, insulin may be given to support blood sugar levels. Corticosteroids may be administered to help regulate the activity of the immune system so that it doesn’t eventually shut down due to over activity. Oxygen may be supplied to aid in keeping the body as well supplied as possible. Pain killers may also be necessary as one of the symptoms includes extreme bodily pain.
On the extreme end of treatment, it may be necessary for some individuals to receive dialysis because their kidneys have shut down and are unable to clean the blood effectively. Other patients may require surgery to remove damage tissue or the actual source of the infection. These are all efforts that are made in going towards improving the outcome of sepsis patients.
The saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” goes a long way in this case. Some things that can help prevent sepsis can start early on in life; by being vaccinated you help the body to avoid and/or fight preventable diseases and infections that start you on the path of sepsis. One of the largest culprits that is very preventable is pneumococcus meningitis. By receiving the vaccine, you help to limit your chances of sepsis starting that way in your body.
We know as a nation and throughout other parts of the world, over use and prescribing of antibiotics is all too common. There are individuals that seek medication for every ailment or sickness that inflicts them. And, all too often medical professionals are willing to accommodate by supplying antibiotics. This affects the ability for antibiotics to treat infections when sepsis has set in and directly affects improving outcomes in sepsis patients.
Healthy and hygienic conditions also go a long way to preventing the acquisition of sepsis. Obviously, there are countries that struggle much more then western civilized countries to provide clean and sanitary conditions when treating patients, however, this doesn’t mean that third world countries are the only ones with sepsis problems in healthcare. Medical professionals have many demands and many patients to see. It can be as simple as forgetting to wash their hands before checking on another patient that can spread infections from one patient to another. This can cause sepsis in patients that have lowered immune systems.
Sometimes things are unavoidable due to so many outside agents. However, this is not an excuse not to first be aware of sepsis and secondly learn more about it, especially if you are in the hospital for any reason. Medical professionals are improving outcomes in sepsis patients wherever and whenever possible. So, whenever possible, patients need to understand what is going on, and be the first line of defense.
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