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30 Aug 17
Sepsis the Hidden Killer

Jonathan Wellington, Head of Clinical Negligence, at Watkins & Gunn, reports on the importance of being alert for the symptoms of Sepsis.

There has been much press coverage in recent weeks and days of a condition of Sepsis. Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection which can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

In children under 5, then the symptoms are the child looks mottled, blueish or pale; can be very lethargic or difficult to wake. They are often cold to the touch, fast breathing and a rash that doesn’t fade. It may be accompanied by a fit or convulsion.

In older people then symptoms include a high temperature, fever and a lower body temperature; chills and shivering; a fast heartbeat and fast breathing. More severe sepsis or sepsis shock can also lead to confusion or disorientation; nausea or vomiting; severe muscle pain and slurred speech.

If identified and treated quickly then sepsis can be treated relatively easily with the use of antibiotics. However severe sepsis and septic shock require immediate admission to hospital and severe sepsis can prove fatal.

The TV presenter, Fern Britton was reported this week as being resigned to dying when she suffered sepsis. In her case she suffered sepsis after a routine hysterectomy when symptoms went undiagnosed. She was in agony following the operation, but was told to wait and see before being admitted to hospital. Fortunately the sepsis was caught just in time and she is on the road to recovery.

Another case that attracted attention was that of Stephen Jackson aged 37 of Essex who died after doctors missed his sepsis condition three times. He suffered with epiglottitis, which are symptoms of a sore throat. When he attended A & E he was told to purchase over the counter medication. An ambulance was later called and a paramedic examined him and diagnosed a virus. A matter of hours later an ambulance was again called but unfortunately he suffered a cardiac arrest and died. He was found to be suffering with epiglottitis which had led to severe sepsis.

Sepsis is a condition which affects 150,000 people or so in Britain each year and can be a hidden killer as it results in 44,000 deaths. However, if spotted quickly it can be treated relatively simply, however there have been a number of cases where symptoms have been missed and severe sepsis has developed leading to death or complications.

It is important therefore to be alert for the symptoms of sepsis and to seek urgent medical treatment and keep questioning medical experts if there are concerns regarding the diagnosis given.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Our medical negligence lawyers can help can you make a claim if you’ve suffered because of errors by health professionals.

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