When infection leads to amputation
A young mother in England lost both her legs, one arm, her fingers on her remaining hand and had to undergo a kidney transplant recently after hospital physicians failed to notice sepsis and, allegedly, did not follow the hospital’s sepsis protocol, after an ectopic pregnancy.
“Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the body’s reaction to an infection spreading into the bloodstream,” says Dr. Mohammed A. Samee, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “However, if a patient is properly diagnosed and receives urgent treatment, sepsis can be treated with antibiotics.”
More than 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis each year, yet only 44 percent of U.S. adults have heard of sepsis, according to the Sepsis Alliance.
Sepsis can occur as the result of any infection, including a respiratory infection, a urinary tract infection or even a skin infection, and there is no one sign. It can mimic the flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection.
“Timely diagnosis of sepsis involves a combination of patient symptoms, vital signs and identifying a source of infection. There are several criteria that must be met to accurately identify patients with a suspected infection as having sepsis,” Dr. Samee says. He adds that septic shock refers to a persistent low blood pressure caused by sepsis that does not respond to IV fluid resuscitation.
The UK Sepsis Trust lists the following as warning signs. If you notice any of these, get to the emergency department right away:
- Persistent high temperature
- Mottled or discolored (blue) limbs
- Inability to urinate – passing no urine in a day
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Severe breathlessness
- Feeling worse than you have ever felt
Children have slightly different symptoms that can include: very fast breathing, convulsions, a rash that does not fade when pressed, extreme fatigue, abnormally cold to the touch, lack of appetite and/or vomits repeatedly.
If you think you might have sepsis, don’t wait. Call 911.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”