Septic Shock

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's inflammatory immune response to infection causes injury to body tissues and organs. Sepsis can lead to low blood pressure, abnormalities in cellular metabolism, and impair the body's ability to transport blood and oxygen to tissues and organs. This can lead to shock, organ damage, and possible death. 

Failure to properly diagnose or treat sepsis and septic shock can cause serious injury or death. Individuals who suffer an injury due to septic shock may have a claim for medical malpractice. Family members who lose a loved one to septic shock may have a wrongful death claim for malpractice. 

Shock Caused by Sepsis

Sepsis can be defined as a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection. Sepsis can cause tissue damage, organ damage, or death. Sepsis can also cause problems with the circulatory system, leading to septic shock. 

When the body cannot handle an infection, it may lead to sepsis, severe sepsis, septic shock, organ failure, and eventually, death. Septic shock is sometimes treated as a subset of sepsis where there is profound circulatory, cellular, and metabolic abnormalities. These abnormalities are associated with a greater risk of mortality than with sepsis alone. 

Sepsis can cause circulatory shock, which involves a problem with the circulatory system that results in insufficient blood supply to the tissues and organs of the body. The release of cytokines caused by an inflammatory response can further increase the risk of shock.

Septic shock is a type of distributive shock. Distributive shock is a condition in which abnormal distribution of blood supply to the smallest blood vessels. When there is an inadequate blood supply to the major organs and body tissues, it sends the body into shock. Septic shock can lead to ischemia (restriction in blood supply to tissues), organ dysfunction, and death. 

Septic shock can be defined as sepsis-induced low blood pressure that is not responsive to intravenous fluids. Low blood pressure can cause impaired oxygenation of the tissue through reduced tissue perfusion pressure. 

Causes of Septic Shock

Septic shock can be caused by a variety of infections. Most septic shock caused by infection involves bacterial infection, followed by fungal infections and viral infections. Infections can develop through the introduction of bacteria to the body. 

Many people who develop sepsis are exposed to bacteria through a hospital, healthcare facility, or nursing home. Some common hospital acquired infections include: 

Hospital acquired infections (HAI) are also referred to as secondary infections or nosocomial infections. Healthcare facility acquired infections can come from:

  • Improper cleaning procedures
  • Using unsterilized surgical instruments
  • Contaminated air and ventilation systems
  • Contaminated bed linens
  • Not properly separating infected patients

Signs and Symptoms of Septic Shock

Generally, a patient will present with sepsis or septicemia before going into septic shock. Some signs and symptoms of sepsis include: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Low body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Confusion 
  • Swelling or edema
  • Decreased urination
  • High blood sugar
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Respiratory alkalosis
  • Low blood pressure

Diagnosing septic shock involves the presence of infection with systematic manifestations of shock. Evidence of infection may involve blood cultures testing positive, signs of pneumonia, or other lab values indicative of infection. 

Septic shock can be diagnosed with low blood pressure that does not respond to treatment of IV fluids alone. Low blood pressure septic shock occurs with systolic blood pressure below 90 mm Hg, mean arterial pressure less than 70 mm Hg, or systolic blood pressure decrease of 40 mm Hg or more without other cause of low blood pressure. 

Treating Septic Shock

Treating sepsis and infections early can avoid septic shock. Early identification and treatment of sepsis can also increase the patient's chance for recovery. Once the patient goes into septic shock, treatment generally consists of:

  • Administering IV fluids, 
  • Administering antibiotics, 
  • Monitoring hemodynamics, 
  • Identifying the source of the infection and controlling the infection, and 
  • Supporting major organs. 

Antibiotics may start with broad-spectrum antibiotics. After lab results, antibiotics may be more targeted to treat the specific infection or bacteria. Vasopressors may also be administered to patients with a low blood pressure after receiving IV fluids. Vasopressors constrict the blood vessels to increase blood pressure.  

Septic Shock and Medical Malpractice

Infection and sepsis generally appear before the patient goes into septic shock. Severe sepsis and septic shock have a higher mortality rate than with sepsis alone. Septic shock can develop after sepsis is not treated or treatment is delayed. 

Septic shock injuries and damage to tissue and organs may be caused by medical malpractice. If a hospital fails to provide adequate care to a patient who is suffering from an infection or sepsis, the hospital may be responsible for the injuries. 

Hospitals or healthcare facilities may also be liable for damages if they negligently caused the infection in the first place. If you suffered sepsis or septic shock under the care of a doctor or healthcare professional, contact your medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your rights and options to recover compensation. 

Death Caused by Septic Shock

The hospital or nursing home may act like the death of a loved one caused by an infection is just something that happens. However, it may not have happened but for the negligence of a doctor or healthcare facility. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know if the death of a loved one was caused by malpractice. 

Contacting a medical malpractice lawyer who understands septic shock cases can help give you a better idea of whether someone was to blame for your family member's death. Your lawyer will be able to gather the medical record, have an expert review the records, and identify medical mistakes that lead to fatal septic shock. 

Septic Shock and Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Septic shock can cause serious tissue and organ damage. If you or a loved one suffered an injury related to septic shock, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about holding the doctor and hospital accountable for their negligence. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.

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