Medical Negligence
By Naomi White
Latest News

Every minute counts – the dangers of delays in diagnosing Sepsis

What is sepsis?

While most people have heard about sepsis, not everyone is aware of what it is. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. Unfortunately, sepsis can arise from injuries as minor as a simple finger cut.  However, most common causes include infection in the lungs, abdomen, urinary tract or pelvis which can then advance to sepsis. When sepsis sets in one’s body, it becomes a life-threatening medical emergency and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

It is estimated that around 4 out of every 10 people who get the illness will die, especially if it’s not recognised early and treated promptly.

Whilst the illness is fast-moving, there are some tell-tale symptoms one should watch out for:

  • Feeling dizzy and faint

  • Fever

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Mottled or discoloured skin

  • Confusion

  • Reduced urine production

Who is most at risk?

As with most illnesses and infections, there are certain groups who are more at risk. However, healthcare professionals should take extra precaution when they see warning signs of sepsis in the following patients:

  • Babies, toddlers, and young children

  • Elderly adults

  • People with chronic illnesses – AIDS, kidney disease or diabetes

  • Anyone with a compromised immune system

  • People who are recently recovering from infection

  • Patients who sustained recent physical bodily trauma

  • Patients recovering from surgery or chemotherapy

Whilst medical professionals are undoubtfully working hard, symptoms of sepsis can be missed or misconstrued for another illness. Unfortunately, this can happen because doctors and staff working in the NHS are at times overworked and stressed. Unfortunately, due to the fast-paced nature of the illness, misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis of sepsis can lead to dire, and at times fatal results.

Common examples of sepsis misdiagnosis include:

  • Delay in referring to a specialist

  • Failure to collect blood cultures

  • Failure to deliver oral or IV antibiotics

  • Blood pressure is not obtained properly

  • Misinterpretation of test results

Impact of a delayed or incorrect diagnosis

Even when sepsis is diagnosed and treated promptly, it can still have life lasting effects on one’s health. Therefore, when sepsis goes undetected and untreated, the impact can be enormous. A delayed or incorrect sepsis diagnosis can often leave the patient life altering implications – including:

Amputation: sepsis can lead to tissue death or gangrene and may result in an amputation. This could be mean losing fingers or toes and larger limbs. Sadly, amputation, more often than not, has a significant impact on the patient’s future life and can require for adaption to a different lifestyle.

Permanent organ damage: If not identified quickly, sepsis can cause serious organ failure. If this were to happen to the kidneys, one would require lifelong dialysis treatment and possibly a kidney transplant in the future.

How We Can Help

In most cases, symptoms of sepsis are detected promptly, and treatment is administered straight away with minimal to no damage. However, if you or anyone you know has experienced a misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis, UK law allows for appropriate legal action to be taken. A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis is a serious form of medical negligence. Therefore, taking appropriate legal action may allow those responsible to learn lessons and prevent it from happening to anyone else in future.

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