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Sepsis and Septic Shock

Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect



In simple terms, “Sepsis” is a severe illness caused by infection in the body.  The infection leading to sepsis may begin from any site of infection with common sources including urinary tract infection, pneumonia, or open wounds such as bedsores, cellulitus, etc.  "Bacteremia" is closely related to sepsis as it is simply an infection in the blood.  "Septicemia" is likewise another name for a blood infection.  If appropriate and timely measures are not taken to prevent the development of sepsis or bacteremia, and to treat it once it manifests itself, patients’ lives are unnecessarily put at risk.


The incidence of sepsis, and septic shock (hypotension or multiple organ system failure resulting from sepsis) has been increasing since the 1930s, and recent evidence indicates this trend will continue.  Septic shock is the most common cause of death in intensive care units, and ranks as the 13th most common cause of death in the United States.  The exact number of deaths attributable to sepsis is not known; however, it is estimated that each year there are 400,000 bouts of sepsis in the United States, 200,000 cases of septic shock, and 100,000 deaths from the disease.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of sepsis and septic shock usually arise in three ways.  First, the underlying source of infection will usually exhibit its own indicators.  If a patient has a urinary tract infection, for instance, the patient may experience flank pain and difficulty urinating.  A bedsore may show inflammation, redness, and infection.  Second, the body’s response to the infection often results in fever, shaking chills, changes in mental status, and/or rapid respiratory rate.  Finally, the body will show signs of shock resulting from the sepsis, including hypotension, lactic academia, and progressive organ system dysfunction.

Examples of Malpractice

If a healthcare provider fails to prevent or treat the underlying source of infection, sepsis, septicemia, bacteremia, and/or septic shock can result.  Given that infection can arise in many contexts, it is beyond the scope of this article to address every type of malpractice which can lead to otherwise preventable sepsis-related deaths.  By way of example, however, too often improper catheter care in nursing homes result in otherwise preventable urinary tract infections which develop into sepsis.  Likewise, too often patients are permitted to develop bedsores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers) which become infected and place the patient at risk for sepsis.  Once infection has developed, failing to timely treat known infections with aggressive and proper antibiotic therapy can result in an otherwise treatable infection developing into sepsis, septic shock, septicemia and/or bacteremia.

What You Can Do

If you believe that a healthcare provider may have negligently allowed as loved one to develop a life-threatening infection from any source, contact a medical malpractice attorney with experience handling medical malpractices involving sepsis-related issues.  As in any medical malpractice case, you should not delay in having your case reviewed because statutes of limitation limit the amount of time one has to bring a claim.  Depending on the facts of the case, these statutes of limitations and exceptions can be very complex and uncertain.  To avoid having a claim barred by the statute of limitations, one should never delay in seeking the consultation of an experienced medical malpractice attorney to review the merits of the claim.

For more information, or for a free attorney consultation with The Powless Law Firm, click here, or call toll-free: (888)922-2889.  Powless Law Offices. handle all types of medical malpractice claims, including those involving life-threatening infection, and nursing home abuse and neglect.


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