Sepsis: A Leading Cause of Death in Long-Term Care Facilities

Sepsis, a systemic blood infection, is responsible for one in every five deaths worldwide. There are many potential causes of sepsis, many of which are avoidable. This year, at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, a study estimates 11 million deaths every year caused by sepsis, more than double previous estimates.

What is sepsis?  Also known as blood poisoning, Sepsis occurs when a person’s immune system reacts to an infection and starts to damage the body’s tissues and organs. It can lead to further health complications, organ failure and death, and survivors can be left with lifelong health problems or disability.

Sepsis is preventable and treatable, and yet it kills more people every year than cancer. That’s one of the conclusions of a new study of sepsis from the Lancet, an international general medicine journal. The study’s lead author, Dr Kristina Rudd, says that “Sepsis is still a problem here in the United States, where it is the No. 1 killer of hospital patients.” (Medical News Today, January 23, 2020).  Sepsis is also a very common ailment in nursing homes, explains Virginia-based attorney Jeffrey J. Downey.  It can occur when a pressure wound, or decubitus ulcer sore becomes infected.  Sepsis can also occur from pneumonia that is not timely diagnosed and treated with antibiotics.   Most pressure wounds in long term care facilities are preventable with proper turning and hygiene.  However, once a pressure ulcer advances to stage II, where it is an open sore, the wound provides a vehicle for blood contamination, explains Downey.

Common signs and symptoms of sepsis include fever, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and confusion. There may also be symptoms related to a specific infection, such as a cough with pneumonia, or painful urination with a kidney infection. Severe sepsis results in poor organ function or insufficient blood flow. Insufficient blood flow may be evident by low blood pressure, high blood lactate, or low urine output. Septic shock is one of the final stages of sepsis, where the body begins to shut down.

Where a patient dies of Sepsis loved ones should investigate the underlying cause of the infection to determine if medical malpractice contributed to the loss, explains Downey. Often, where patients are taken to the hospital wound cultures will be performed that might provide important information as to the source of the infection.  Contaminants like e-coli often suggest contamination from human waste, which is common for open wounds near the lower back, specifically, the sacrum. Better sanitation, access to clean water, good hygiene and infection control practices are among the ways to prevent the underlying infections that can lead to sepsis.

If you have a loved one in who has suffered an injury due to negligent care in a long-term care facility, contact the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C. for a free consultation.  We practice in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C. is located near Tysons Corner at:

8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810, McLean, VA  22102
Phone: 703-564-7318
On the web at

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