The American Thoracic Society met for their annual conference where findings from a recent sepsis study was presented. Sepsis infections also known as blood infections can cause whole body inflammation, organ decay, and in some severe cases death. Sepsis is particularly fatal among the elderly and those with weakened immune system such as infants and those with HIV/AIDS. At the annual conference the researchers of a recently published study in the Journal of American Medical Association discussed the deadly effects of sepsis and the increased rate at which emergency departments are seeing patients present with sepsis along other infections. The occurrence of sepsis has been steadily rising with about one of out every 10 patients being treated for sepsis in U.S. hospitals. Even more telling the study found that 52 percent of those who died in a hospital were diagnosed even if sepsis was not the direct cause of the patient’s death. Dr. Vincent Liu, the lead study author indicated that the researchers were surprised at the number of deaths in which sepsis was present. Approximately as many as “1 in 2 patients dying in the US hospitals had sepsis.” Further stating the need for improved care for sepsis patients in order to save many more lives.
Sepsis and the Elderly:
Sepsis deaths have been on the rise according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During a ten-year span from 2000 to 2010, the rate of deaths associated with sepsis infections increased 17 percent equating to a death toll of 135,000, an increase from 45,000 deaths. The Mayo Clinic defines sepsis as a “potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.” Sepsis, which is the body’s response to fighting a severe infection often caused by pneumonia, abdominal infection, kidney infection or a bloodstream infection such as bacteremia, can trigger inflammation throughout the body. The inflammation can prove deadly as damage to multiple organ systems can occur, if left to progress sepsis can also cause blood pressure to severely drop which may also lead to death. The longer a patient goes untreated with sepsis the lower the chances of survival. Early treatment is particularly important for those with advanced aging.
It has even been suggested that for those over the age of 65 who contract sepsis the long-term effects may include being susceptible to cognitive impairment. A 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association authored by the lead researcher Theodore J. Iwashyna, MD, PhD, of the University of Michigan Medical School, found that sepsis may have a direct link to 20,000 new cases of dementia among those 65 years or older who contract sepsis each year in the U.S. While there have been advances in the treatment of sepsis prevention among the elderly is vital to their survival and overall quality of life. Vaccinating those with compromised immune systems against the flu and pneumonia is still one of the best practices available.
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