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Understanding Sepsis

Jan 7, 2019

Every 2 minutes, Sepsis claims the precious life of an individual, yet few people understand or know what this life-threatening condition is.  September is Sepsis Awareness Month, a time designated to bringing a spotlight on Sepsis and Sepsis Awareness. 

Hospital worker with patient
So what is Sepsis?  Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death.  When germs enter your body, your immune system goes into action to prevent and fight infection.  Sepsis occurs when a severe infection causes the body’s own defense mechanisms to malfunction leading to problems with circulation, coagulation, and inflammation. This eventually causes vital organs to stop working properly.  If not treated promptly, this can cause life threatening low blood pressure, a state called septic shock. 

“This is such an important issue for our community to be aware of,” said Dr. Christopher David Romero, Internal Medicine Specialist for Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen.  “Understanding the warning signs and symptoms of Sepsis is critically important to preventing organ and tissue damage.”

Those at the highest risk of developing Sepsis include the very young and very old population, as well as people with chronic or serious illnesses.  However, sepsis can occur at any age when a severe infection gets out of control.  Despite decades of research and efforts to combat sepsis it is the leading cause of death in US hospitals, and costs over 20 Billion dollars in medical care each year. 

“Sepsis can be caused from any form of an infection anywhere in the body, but the most common cause nationwide is pneumonia.” said Dr. Romero.  “The best way to prevent infections is through the use of good hygiene, ensuring vaccinations to prevent illnesses like the flu, as well as properly caring for any open wounds.”

It’s About TIME is a national initiative to drive broader Sepsis awareness and emphasize the urgent need to seek treatment when there are signs and symptoms of Sepsis.  TIME is an easy to remember acronym of the key signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Temperature – Higher or lower than normal
  • Infection – May have signs and symptoms of an infection
  • Mental Decline – Confused, sleepy, difficulty to rouse
  • Extremely Ill – Severe pain or discomfort

Sepsis is a medical emergency and should be treated as quickly and efficiently as possible.  While there are no definite tests to diagnose Sepsis, certain tests can assist in making the diagnosis.  Treatment can include prompt administration of antibiotics and IV fluids to fight infection and ensure the body has adequate fluids so organs can do their work.

“With Sepsis, time is of the essence,” said Dr. Romero.  “Knowing the signs and seeking medical treatment immediately can save a life.”

If at any time symptoms progress, call 911 immediately. 

Valley Baptist Health System has two convenient Emergency Room locations:

Valley Baptist Medical Center – Brownsville
040 West Jefferson Street

Valley Baptist Medical Center – Harlingen
2101 Pease Street

For more information on services available visit www.valleybaptist.net

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