Why should everyone be talking about sepsis?

  • 258,000 Americans die every year of a medical condition that most people have never heard of.
  • It kills 1 person every 2 minutes, yet close to half of all Americans have never heard the word for this condition.

It’s called SEPSIS.

Sepsis is a toxic response to an infection. As a result, instead of protecting you, your body actually starts trying to kill you.

Sepsis is increasing at an alarming rate.

We can change this.  We can cut the mortality rate today. We need to raise awareness.

It all comes down to an informed public can work with their healthcare providers to reduce the deaths and disabilities from sepsis.

  • Healthcare providers must know when to suspect sepsis, follow standards to recognize the indicators early, and begin treatment promptly.
  • Most cases of sepsis develop outside the hospital setting. The public too will need to be educated to be concerned about the signs of sepsis and empowered to demand early treatment.

Sepsis needs to be treated as a medical emergency. Hospitals use the word “CODE” to signify that an emergency is occurring. The World Sepsis Day Organization suggests a new code.

CODE: Sepsis

  1. Suspect it
  2. Administer early antibiotics (minutes are important - mortality rate rises by 8% every hour without fluids and antibiotics)
  3. Administer fluids
  4. Get the help needed to provide care

There is not a single sign or symptom that tells you that you have sepsis. The first step is to raise awareness of when to suspect sepsis and then start treatment promptly to save lives. Sepsis diagnosis is often delayed because the clinical symptoms and vital signs currently used (raised temperature, increased pulse or breathing rate, white blood cell count, etc.) are not specific enough. In children, the signs and symptoms may be subtle, and deterioration rapid. Sepsis is under-recognized and poorly understood due to confusion about its definition, the lack of documentation of sepsis as a cause of death, inadequate diagnostic tools, and inconsistent application of standardized clinical guidelines to treat sepsis.

Rapid initiation of simple, timely interventions, including antimicrobials and intravenous fluids, can reduce the risk of death by half. Patients with suspected sepsis should be referred immediately to an appropriate facility. Early sepsis treatment is cost effective, and reduces the number of hospital and critical care bed days for patients. Unfortunately, sepsis is still often overlooked and recognized too late.

At UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, we are advancing research to understand sepsis and develop best practices for treating sepsis in children and infants everywhere. Most often, sepsis research and guidelines are developed for treating sepsis in adults. In children, these same rules may not apply. It is important that physicians and all healthcare providers understand when they should suspect sepsis and start early treatment.

Sepsis is common and often deadly. It remains the primary cause of death from infection, despite advances in modern medicine like vaccines, antibiotics, and intensive care.

Often misunderstood as “blood poisoning”, sepsis today is one of the leading causes of death around the world. Between one-third and one-half of all sepsis patients die. In developing countries, sepsis accounts for 60-80% of all deaths. It kills more than 6 million infants and young children, and 100,000 new mothers every year. Every few seconds, someone in the world dies of sepsis.

Despite advances in modern medicine, the number of sepsis cases continues to increase dramatically. Hospitalizations for sepsis have more than doubled over the last 10 years, and in many countries, more people are hospitalized each year for sepsis than for heart attack. International studies show that 20-40% of sepsis patients requiring intensive care treatment developed sepsis outside the hospital. In the United States, the incidence of post-surgical sepsis tripled between 1997 and 2006.

  • Approximately 25 million people suffer from sepsis annually worldwide
  • About 8 million of these people die
  • Around 20% of sepsis survivors live with cognitive and/or physical impairments
  • Mortality and impairments could be significantly reduced

Ebola –
The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa is the most severe in recorded history. Infection with this virulent and contagious agent leads to death from sepsis with multi-organ failure in 70 – 90% of sufferers, according to the World Sepsis Day organization.