SEPSIS - A delay in diagnosis

Insights / / Bristol

In England there are around 123,000 cases of sepsis a year with around 37,000 patients sadly passing away as a result of the condition. Source NHS UK. Early treatment has proven to be critical to fighting the infection but what happens when the symptoms are missed by medical professionals?  Rachel Eyers, Associate, explores what options sepsis sufferers and their families have. 

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by harmful bacteria and is an extremely serious complication of an infection in the body. Devastating news coverage as well as a hard hitting storyline in the popular soap drama Coronation Street is helping to raise awareness of the potentially tragic infection. 

Early treatment of sepsis

When sepsis is caught early enough it can be treated with antibiotics and there will usually be a complete and full recovery. The longer the condition is left, the worse the consequences can be and often with life-changing results including:

  • Major organ failure and residual organ damage;
  • Amputation of limbs;
  • Psychological effects including memory loss or being unable to do simple mental arithmetic;
  • Death if the patient goes into septic shock.

There is a risk of sepsis from any infection, though it is more common if you have had an infection in the lungs, urinary tract, abdomen or pelvis. You are also more likely to develop sepsis following surgery which has its own risk of infection. The NHS site has more information about the causes of sepsis and treatment which can be seen here.   

Misdiagnosis of sepsis

Unfortunately, a diagnosis of sepsis can be missed because some of the symptoms are often similar to other conditions such as flu or gastroenteritis. It may also be that it is not until the condition develops further that it becomes more obvious that sepsis is the cause. Being aware of the potential for sepsis where someone has an infection helps doctors monitor the original infection and avoid any deterioration into sepsis.

If you feel that you have symptoms of sepsis and have suffered an injury, or had an infection or surgery, then you should seek immediate advice from your GP who may refer you to hospital. The NICE Guidelines were updated in August 2017 to indicate a dose of IV antibiotics plus a review by a Senior Clinician should be done within 1 hour of presenting at hospital where sepsis is suspected. These Guidelines are due to be reviewed shortly this August 2018 and we will publish a further article if they are amended or updated.

Medical negligence solicitors supporting sepsis patients

Here at Metcalfes we have an experienced team of Medical Negligence Solicitors who can offer you and your family specialist advice. We deal with all areas of medical negligence including delay in diagnosis. If you or someone you know has suffered a delay in diagnosis of sepsis or the condition has not been managed correctly then please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our enquiry form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Rachel Eyers

Rachel Eyers Senior Associate FCILEx

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