Sepsis often occurs due to an infection present in the body. When that infection rises to significant levels, it can lead to an extreme reaction throughout the body, including organ and tissue damage and, for many patients, death. Failure to act to prevent sepsis, or to treat it when it appears, can leave care providers liable for the damage caused to the patient.
If you have questions about your right to compensation for medical malpractice that resulted in sepsis, including sepsis that may have led to the loss of a loved one, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
How Does Sepsis Occur?
Sepsis can occur in a number of scenarios.
1. A Response to Post-Operative Infection
Sepsis typically occurs as an extreme response to another type of infection within the body. For example, suppose that you suffer an infection after surgery. If your immune system has a severe reaction to that infection as it spreads through the body, it can lead to sepsis.
Around 11.6 cases of post-operative sepsis occur for every 1,000 elective surgical procedures. Non-elective surgical procedures, due to the higher level of danger involved and, in many cases, the lower overall health of the patient, can have a higher risk of developing infections and sepsis.
Post-operative infections can occur for several reasons, many resulting from physician negligence during surgery.
- Exposure to contamination during surgery
- Failure to properly clean the wound site
- Failure to change dressings or keep up with wound cleaning and disinfection in a timely manner
When post-operative infections occur as a direct result of physician negligence, the physician may bear liability for any associated complications.
2. A Response to Internal Infection
Some types of infections can increase the risk that a patient will develop sepsis. For example, appendicitis, if not properly treated, can develop into sepsis. Abdominal and kidney infections also have a high risk of developing into sepsis, especially if untreated. Often, sepsis occurs in the case of internal infections because physicians fail to note the initial symptoms, which may cause that infection to spread further through the body.
3. A Response to Pneumonia
In some cases, sepsis can develop from pneumonia. Pneumonia can occur due to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. It has a higher risk in patients who do not breathe deeply and cough to help clear the lungs, especially after surgery. In some cases, patients may develop pneumonia after surgery because their care providers do not require them to take steps to get out of bed, clear the lungs, or prevent pneumonia through medications and vaccines following surgery.
Who Bears Liability for Sepsis?
Sepsis can occur for some reasons, many of which remain beyond the doctor’s or care provider’s control. However, in many cases, doctors and nurses can take actions that may help reduce patients’ risk of developing sepsis or decrease the complications patients may face. If they fail to take those actions, those care providers may bear liability for the complications associated with sepsis.
The Doctor Failed to Take Necessary Sanitary Precautions
Doctors may need to take specific precautions to help reduce their patients’ infection risk. For example, they may need to ensure that the surgical site remains sterile throughout the procedure and take care of wound cleaning to ensure that patients do not end up with a dangerous infection. Doctors may need to avoid possible errors during surgery that could cause infection risk in a patient, like contaminated surgical instruments, sneezing over a patient, and more.
The Doctor Ignored the Patient’s Symptoms and Complaints
Often, patients will present with clear symptoms of another type of infection, including appendicitis. Some doctors, however, will ignore those symptoms. Abdominal pain, for example, can include a range of potentially dangerous conditions but may also serve as a catch-all for drug-seeking behavior.
Some physicians may write off those symptoms to the patient’s desire for medication, which means they may not provide the testing or treatment patients need. If that condition later develops into an infection and/or sepsis, the physician may bear liability for failing to keep up with the patient’s symptoms and offer the right standard of treatment.
The Care Provider Ignored Signs of Infection
When infection does arise, especially in a surgical site, doctors and care providers may need to act quickly to reduce the risk of further infection. In many cases, however, care providers may ignore or overlook signs of infection, causing the infection to worsen before the patient receives treatment. If the care provider does not take care of an infection quickly, it can develop into sepsis, leaving the doctor or hospital liable for those conditions.
The Care Provider Failed to Monitor the Patients Properly
Following a surgical procedure, patients may need careful monitoring to reduce the risk of infection or further illness. Some of that monitoring may take place in the hospital. In other cases, the care provider may need to bring patients in for follow-up care.
That care may depend on the specific type of procedure the patient had and the patient’s overall health. However, care providers may need to carefully monitor their patients in the hospital and out to reduce the risk that damaging symptoms will develop. If a care provider fails to monitor a patient properly, it can increase the risk that a patient will develop a life-threatening infection, including sepsis.
A Lawyer Can Help You Learn About Your Rights Following Sepsis
If you develop sepsis, whether due to a surgical complication or due to a care provider’s negligence, a lawyer can help you learn more about your rights. You may have the right to file a claim if you developed sepsis because your care provider failed to follow the standard of treatment after your procedure, causing you to develop an infection that progressed to sepsis, or if the care provider failed to properly monitor you for symptoms and provide treatment as needed.