Monday, May 19, 2014

Sepsis contributes to 1 in every 2 to 3 deaths - Video: Faces of Sepsis

Regular readers of this blog likely know that one of my clients is a patient advocacy organization called Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis is a little known, but frighteningly common illness that affects as many as 750,000 hospitalized patients annually, and kills more than a quarter of a million Americans each year. Thousands more are left with long-term problems, such as amputations, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How common is sepsis? The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) lists the top five causes of death in the U.S. as follows:

  1. Heart disease - 597, 689
  2. Cancer - 574,743
  3. Chronic lower respiratory disease - 138,080
  4. Stroke - 129,476
  5. Accidents - 120,859

But if the CDC was monitoring sepsis deaths, the list would look like this:
  1. Heart disease - 597, 689
  2. Cancer - 574,743
  3. Sepsis - 288,204
  4. Chronic lower respiratory disease - 138,080
  5. Stroke - 129,476
More people have heard about sepsis since Sepsis Alliance was founded in 2007, and more research is being done to try to find better ways to identify sepsis more quickly and to treat it more effectively. But, if we look at the results of a study presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society, we still have a long way to go. The study looked at almost 7 million patients to see how many patients were dying from sepsis, and the results were startling:

"We were surprised to find that as many as 1 in 2 patients dying in US hospitals had sepsis," the authors said in a release. 

So what is sepsis? Simply put, sepsis is the body's toxic (bad) reaction to an infection. It can affect anyone at any time. The infection can be as serious as one from a perforated (burst) bowel or pneumonia, or as seeming innocent as an infected hangnail or abscessed tooth. As your body tries to fight the infection, something goes wrong and your body starts to attack itself, causing a cascade of events that lead to organs shutting down and can result in death.

Who gets sepsis? Anyone can get sepsis. Sepsis Alliance just released this video, called The Faces of Sepsis, where you can meet three people who were touched by illness. You can read their stories in full in the Faces of Sepsis section of the SA website.

To learn more about sepsis, the symptoms, and the importance of early treatment, visit It could save a life.