Hospitals recognize that numerous patients arrive seeking treatment for infections. This is why doctors and staff take careful precautions, including rigorous handwashing techniques, equipment sterilization and using protective gear. Despite these measures, sepsis – a condition that starts from an infection – remains prevalent in hospitals and is a leading cause of patient fatalities.
What makes sepsis so common in hospitals?
In the United States alone, sepsis is responsible for roughly 350,000 deaths and millions of hospitalizations yearly. However, many develop the condition while in the ICU.
This life-threatening medical complication occurs when the body’s immune system responds to an infection. Instead of fighting off the infection, the immune system causes inflammation, which damages vital organs. If undiagnosed or not treated immediately, sepsis could result in death.
Anyone with an infection may develop sepsis. However, people with a weak immune system or existing health problems, like those in hospitals, are more likely to acquire it. Even a mild cough or cold can be harmful to someone with a compromised immune system.
How patients develop sepsis
Some of the ways a patient may acquire an infection or develop sepsis during their stay in the hospital include:
- Surgery: Incisions during an operation allow bacteria to enter the body, increasing the risk of infection.
- Using a catheter: A catheter is a tube that helps deliver or remove fluids from the body. However, using this medical device may also introduce bacteria to the body and result in an infection.
- Using a ventilator: Patients who rely on mechanical ventilation, a tube that leads into the lungs, may risk developing a lung infection if bacteria enter it.
The best way for hospitals to prevent sepsis is to prevent the spread of infections. Hospitals may display negligence when they do not adequately sterilize tools and equipment, sanitize wounds, or misdiagnose infections.
Despite their best efforts, hospitals sometimes have gaps in strictly applying protocols. However, any mistakes in health care can have severe consequences for patients.
Can hospitals be held liable for sepsis?
No patient wants to acquire additional health problems while recovering from their current one. Patients who develop sepsis because of hospital or medical staff negligence may file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
However, pursuing legal action involves complex procedures, including collecting evidence to prove negligence. Patients who are busy seeking treatments may engage an attorney to review their case and, if necessary, act on their behalf.