Aug 25, 2020 During Sepsis Awareness Month, A Reminder that Early Identification and Treatment is Key

Sepsis is your body’s overwhelming response to a serious infection of your blood and/or tissues. Any bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites can cause infections that can lead to sepsis. Sepsis can be life threatening, if left untreated, and can rapidly progress to tissue damage and stop your organs from working resulting in septic shock and possibly death.

“Those at greater risk for sepsis include the elderly and children under a year; those with weak immune systems; persons with wounds or injuries and patients with chronic illness such as diabetes, lung, liver, kidney or heart disease,” explains Nirav Mistry, MD, Critical Care Intensivist and Sepsis Physician Leader at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Dr. Mistry stresses the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of sepsis to better protect your loved ones and advocate early treatment. If you notice a combination of the following symptoms or suspect sepsis, see a doctor urgently, call 911 or go to the hospital:

Temperature – higher or lower than normal
Infection – may have signs and symptoms of infection
Mental Decline - confused, sleepy, difficult to rouse
Extremely Ill – severe pain, discomfort, shortness of breath

At Saint Barnabas Medical Center, under Dr. Mistry’s leadership, several initiatives are in place to help staff and patients focus on early identification and rapid treatment of sepsis. These include:

  • A Sepsis Protocol -- created to support early identification and rapid management of sepsis for our inpatients, the protocol is automatically triggered through our electronic medical record when a patient’s lab work and vital signs indicate a possible sepsis diagnosis. From there, the patient’s nurse is electronically notified and the proper treatment is implemented.
  • One-Hour Treatment Bundle – because the risk of mortality from sepsis increases by as much as 8% each hour treatment is delayed, this bundle helps ensure the appropriate clinicians are quickly and efficiently responding to a sepsis alert.
  • Dedicated Sepsis Care Team - involved in managing patients with sepsis during their hospitalization, this multidisciplinary team provides education and training to assist with recovery and self-management following discharge.

The best way to prevent acquiring sepsis is through common hygiene practices like regular and thorough hand washing, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless hands are washed first and staying away from people who have a cold or are sick. “It is also important to clean and monitor all open wounds, take antibiotics as prescribed and stay up-to-date with regular vaccinations including pneumonia and flu,” Dr. Mistry adds.

Learn more about Sepsis Awareness Month