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Jonathan Rosenfeld

June 13, 2021

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Sepsis is the immune system’s overwhelming reaction to the presence of infection. The abnormal response releases toxic chemicals into the bloodstream to fight off the infection, resulting in significant inflammation and other damaging effects.

The disease triggers a chain reaction, damaging organs and destroying body tissue. Without treatment, the body responds to sepsis with a drop in blood pressure that could drastically decrease to life-threatening levels, resulting in a loss of life.

Are you the victim of sepsis that could have been avoided had the medical team followed the established protocols? Did your family lose a loved one to septic shock leading to a preventable loss of life? This article will address the sepsis recovery time in older people.

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Sepsis and Septic Shock

People with chronic health diseases, the elderly, and those living in unsanitary environments are highly susceptible to sepsis due to a weakened immune system. Data suggests that the elderly and young children are the condition’s most common victims.

People with diabetes, lung disease, and cancers have a low survival rate of sepsis.

However, using strong antibiotics and administering fluids through IV injections can significantly increase the patient’s longevity with early medical intervention.

Septicemia in the bloodstream is a form of sepsis that allows dangerous bacteria to infect other body areas. Septicemia is almost always life-threatening, especially if it is allowed to progress to septic shock.

People with functional and aging limitations to fight off sepsis most at risk of acquiring septicemia have a weakened immune system or suffer from severe injuries, existing medical conditions, or using medical devices like catheters.

Septic shock is the most deadly form of sepsis when the disease is in its final stages, causing organs to fail while damaging or killing tissue through necrosis.

Without immediate medical attention, an individual with advanced sepsis could die within hours.

Elderly Patients’ Increased Risk of Developing Sepsis

Hospitalized patients and nursing home residents have an increased potential risk of developing sepsis, severe sepsis, septicemia, and septic shock due to their age and underlying health conditions. Weakened immune systems often do not have what is required to fight off an infection.

Many nursing home residents suffer from acute and chronic medical conditions, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and facility-acquired bed sores.

Any open wound, IV injection site, post-surgical sutured incision, or mucous membrane provides the ideal external accidents for germs and parasites to enter the body, leading to infections.

Many nursing home residents’ medical conditions and prescription medications increase acid levels in the bloodstream, decrease platelet count, and minimize red and white blood cells.

Nursing home administrators, doctors, nurses, and nurse’s aides must ensure every patient’s safety. The medical team must provide optimal care to every resident, paying close attention to mobility-challenged patients or those who cannot shift their weight in the bed, readjusting their body every few hours to alleviate pressure-causing pressure sores.

In less than two hours, a mobility-challenged resident can develop bedsores when pressure is not relieved from a bony prominences area like the ankles, heels, knees, hips, sacrum, shoulder blades, shoulders, back of the neck and head, elbows, hands, and fingers.

If a developing pressure wound is allowed to degrade, it could progress to a life-threatening open sore (decubitus ulcer), increasing the septic shock risk.

How Infection Enters the Body

Typically, sepsis is acquired through bacterial and viral infections from acute and chronic conditions, afflictions, and illnesses that include:

  • Pressure wounds (bedsores, pressure sores, pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers)
  • Cellulitis
  • Fungal and bacterial foot infections
  • Influenza (the flu)
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Gastrointestinal infections, including gastroenteritis
  • Respiratory infections, including pneumonia
  • An infected bug bite
  • Medical device use, including breathing tubes, catheters, and IVs (intravenous injections)

Sepsis often develops because of weakened immune systems or other factors, including post-surgical infections, severe burns, cuts, lacerations, and chronic illnesses like cancer, AIDS, liver disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.

In recent years, the overuse of antibiotics has made humans more susceptible to microbial damage necessary to fight off and control infection. The risk of death increases in older residents with functional and aging limitations to fight off sepsis.

Many live in close quarters of communal living in nursing homes and long-term care centers. Researchers from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reveal that sepsis in older adults stems mostly from urinary tract infections (UTIs) and respiratory tract infections.

The Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis and Septic Shock

Sepsis is always a medical emergency, requiring immediate health care intervention. However, many of the signs and symptoms associated with sepsis are challenging to identify and often mimic other severe illnesses.

The three stages of sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock include:

Stage 1 – In its initial stage, the patient will experience sepsis symptoms that include:

  • High fever (hyperthermia) of 101°F (37.7°C) or higher with shivers, or hypothermia or a body temperature under 98.6°F (37°C)
  • Local infection involving sepsis may develop from pneumonia, urinary tract infection, upper respiratory tract infection, open wound, or bedsore

Stage 2 – In the progressive stage, the patient will experience high fever and local infection listed above, along with severe sepsis symptoms, including:

  • Intense fatigue, pain, and discomfort
  • Cognitive decline, including decreased mental status leading to confusion, disorientation, or dementia/memory loss worsening
  • Sleepiness
  • Cold, clammy, discolored, mottled skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Diminished alertness
  • Pale and cold extremities
  • Faintness and dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • An extreme illness that leads to repeated vomiting, loss of appetite, diminished urination, convulsions, lethargy, and rash

Stage 3 – In its most advanced stage, the human body will experience all the above symptoms and septic shock symptoms, including lowering blood pressure.

In its initial stage, sepsis is a medical concern requiring critical care. In Stage II and Stage III, patients and long-term care residents should be transferred to a local emergency room for immediate urgent care.

Time for care is critical for medical advice. Any delay in sepsis diagnosis followed by the necessary immediate treatment in an intensive care unit could cause a lifelong negative outcome, bad prognosis, or loss of life within hours or days.

Diagnosing the Condition

Any medical doctor and healthcare provider diagnosing sepsis, severe sepsis, and deadly septic shock will look for specific signs and symptoms associated with the disease.

These signs include inflammatory factors, hemodynamic factors, organ dysfunction, and tissue perfusion. Specifically:

Inflammatory response – The immune system’s inflammatory response is often an indicator of developing or existing sepsis.

The doctor will perform a comprehensive blood test to identify the inflammatory state, which will reveal the following:

  • Elevated white blood cell count
  • High plasma C-reactive protein
  • Newly formed white blood cells found in the blood
  • Elevated procalcitonin (PCT) levels
      • Hemodynamic factors – A physical examination and testing can identify a drop in blood pressure, high cardiac index, and low oxygen saturation levels.
      • Organ dysfunction – The doctor can determine organ malfunction, dysfunction, or failure through tests that identify:
  • Reduced oxygen levels
  • Diminished urine output
  • No bowel sounds
  • Blood clot (coagulation) abnormalities
  • Elevated blood creatinine levels
  • Low blood platelet count
  • High bilirubin levels

Tissue perfusion – A functioning organ relies on tissue perfusion for muscle contraction, urination, oxygen, and carbon dioxide exchange. Doctors can test for abnormal levels of tissue perfusion by detecting the following:

  • High blood lactate levels
  • Decreased capillary mottling or filling

Infected patients who develop sepsis that advances to the critical stage could experience organ dysfunction, including kidney failure, elevated heart rate, high fever, and in rare cases, heart failure.

Treating Sepsis and Septic Shock

Septic shock and sepsis are medical emergencies that often require hospitalization. Typically, medical professionals will perform comprehensive blood tests to identify septic shock or sepsis.

With an accurate diagnosis, immediate treatment is necessary to ensure the patient’s survival. In recent years, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved multiple appropriate antibiotics to treat sepsis effectively.

Some of these drugs include:

  • ampicillin and sulbactam (Unasyn),
  • cefepime (Maxipime)
  • cefotaxime (Claforan)
  • ceftazidime (Fortaz)
  • ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
  • clindamycin (Cleocin)
  • imipenem/cilastatin (Primaxin)
  • levofloxacin (Levaquin)
  • meropenem (Merrem)
  • piperacillin and tazobactam (Zosyn)

Determining which antibody to use for an effective treatment requires identifying the infecting organism. The patient’s prognosis typically depends on the infection severity and whether treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU) was successful.

Data reveals that sepsis patients without organ failure have an 85% chance of surviving the debilitating disease. However, if the condition has advanced to debilitating septic shock, the patient’s survival rate drops to 40%.

The highest mortality rates affect elderly patients and nursing home residents with compromised immune systems.

One study showed that many of the facility-acquired sepsis cases could have been avoided had the nursing staff responsible for providing the highest level of care treated the resident according to established protocols.

Instead, the resident’s health declines through negligence, abuse, or mistreatment, leading to deadly sepsis.

Recovering from Sepsis Injuries FAQs

Our personal injury attorneys realize that many families have unanswered questions about how their loved one was harmed by sepsis in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living community. Our law firm has answered some of those questions below.

Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) for any additional information you need for seeking justice and obtaining financial compensation through a medical negligence lawsuit to recover your damages.

How Long Can An Elderly Person Live With Sepsis?

Adults with advanced sepsis have a 40% mortality rate in the United States, indicating that 60% of all severe infection survivors were alive ninety days later. However, data revealed that 40% of all sepsis survivors living three months after their infection died within the next two years.

Some studies have shown that older adults with sepsis are more likely to acquire subsequent severe infections than the mass population.

This increased mortality rate is likely due to age-related chronic conditions, diseases, and health issues that compromise the patient’s immune system, increasing the body’s inability to fight off newly acquired infections.

How is Sepsis Treated In The Elderly?

Medical professionals treat advanced sepsis using strong antibiotics, repeatedly administered intravenously, lasting two or three months. In some cases, the older adult’s disease results in accumulated pus or abscesses that must be surgically removed.

In addition to treating sepsis, the doctor must also understand the underlying condition that led to severe infection, resulting in blood poisoning. Recovery from sepsis is the expected outcome.

However, studies show that those who develop sepsis once have an elevated risk of developing future infections that could be just as deadly.

What are the 3 Stages of Sepsis?

Sepsis is categorized into three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis, and life-threatening septic shock. In its initial stage, sepsis is easily treated using effective antibiotics. In its later stages, the patient experiences extreme pain and discomfort and an increased risk of permanent organ damage.

The most advanced stage could claim the patient’s life when the body responds with an unhealthy drop in blood pressure that could lead to death.

What are the Final Stages of Sepsis?

Without effective treatment, sepsis can degrade to severe sepsis with significantly painful symptoms that can devastate the body, causing lifelong tissue and organ damage.

Severe sepsis can progress to septic shock, a life-threatening condition that requires hospitalization.

Adults suffering from the most advanced stage experience tissue necrosis (death) and organ failure. Blood poisoning can lead to death within hours, even if treated in intensive care units (ICUs).

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), nearly all sepsis cases are preventable had caregivers provide treatment to support the immune system while administering strong antibiotics to kill the infection that triggered sepsis.

Can UTI Lead To Sepsis In The Elderly?

According to the National Council on Aging, most sepsis events in the elderly are caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs) and respiratory tract infections.

However, the infections are often the result of a compromised immune system due to the elderly patient’s acute and chronic health conditions.

What are the Chances of Surviving Sepsis?

Data reveals that 60% of all septic shock survivors were still alive ninety days after acquiring the blood poisoning condition. However, survivors have an increased chance of experiencing recurring infections that could produce the same problems in the months and years ahead.

The data revealed that 40% of all sepsis survivors in surveys were dead within two years, mostly due to recurring infections. The mortality risk factor is lowered in patients with robust immune systems.

Is it Safe To Visit Someone With Sepsis?

According to the Sepsis Alliance Website, non-contagious infections cause many sepsis cases, usually involving internal organs.

However, some septic shock cases involve highly contagious diseases, including Clostridium difficile (C. diff), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), stomach flu (norovirus), meningitis, influenza (The Flu), tuberculosis (TB), and coronavirus (Covid-19).

Nursing homes, assisted living communities, and rehabilitation centers must follow infectious disease protocols to minimize or eliminate the spread of infection throughout the facility. Visitors are not allowed until the resident is no longer contagious to ensure everyone’s safety.

Doctors, nurses, nurse aides, hospice nurses, therapists, and other medical professionals must wear personal protective equipment, including sterilized gowns, masks, gloves, and other gear, when entering the room of a contagious resident.

Hiring a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney to Resolve a Financial Compensation Lawsuit

Did you suffer an injury in preventable negligence? Contact our nursing home infection lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

The medical negligence attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can advise you on the merits of your case to proceed with filing and resolving a personal injury compensation claim.

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