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Early Detection of Sepsis Is Vital to Save Lives!

There are over 1.7 million cases and 270,000 deaths from sepsis in the U.S. each year, according to the Sepsis Alliance. This is more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS combined. Sepsis is the number one cause of death in hospitals and the number one driver of hospital readmissions. Every 20 seconds, someone is hospitalized with sepsis in the U.S.

Sepsis is the body’s life-threatening response to an infection that gets out of control and enters the bloodstream and can result in multi-system organ failure and death. We must all do whatever we can to educate ourselves and others to prevent unnecessary morbidity and mortality. There are a number of resources and education tools available for all levels of the health care continuum. The more we can spread the word and share these resources not just in health care settings, but with our friends and family as well, the more lives we can save. What each one of us does with this information can make a difference.

Sepsis can affect anyone, even healthy people who have an infection that goes untreated or unnoticed. Those most at risk include people age 65+ or younger than 1, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, and those with compromised immune systems or taking immunosuppressive drugs. Sepsis most often occurs due to infections of the stomach, lung, urinary tract, or skin.

Early identification is key to saving lives and minimizing the severity and longevity of the illness. There are some great resources for early detection at home available from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. When it comes to sepsis intervention, according to the Sepsis Alliance, it is all about TIME:

  • Temperature – higher or lower than normal.
  • Infection – the person may have signs or symptoms of an infection.
  • Mental Decline – the person may be sleepy and difficult to arouse.
  • Extremely Ill – the person may be experiencing severe pain and/or discomfort.

For people in a long term care setting where there is access to more advanced monitoring, other symptoms include an increased heart rate with low blood pressure, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, and pale or discolored skin. The most important action is to immediately seek advanced medical care. As we know, early intervention is key to saving lives.

There are also great resources available from the Sepsis Alliance Institute, including best practice resources, education, and guidance to sepsis coordinators and health care professionals across the country. Any organization utilizing nurses or other qualified clinicians can access and use the Home Care Association of NYS's Sepsis Screening and Intervention Tool. This includes those who provide services in the home and community settings as well as those in ambulatory or residential/facility settings.

What else can you do?

  • Promote sepsis awareness. Did you know that September is Sepsis Awareness Month? Consider promoting this on an annual basis within your facility.
  • Share this information with someone you love, or better yet, many people in your community.
  • Make sepsis education a part of the annual education you provide within your organization.
  • Utilize sepsis screening tools and integrate them as a part of your clinical practice.

Together, we can all make a significant impact through promoting awareness, education, and early intervention. The next life saved from these combined efforts could be yours or that of someone you love.

Contact: Carrie Mosley, cmosley@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8383 ext. 147