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Freeths Guide to Sepsis Claims

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What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life threatening condition triggered when the immune system goes into overdrive causing blood pressure to drop. This prevents the blood supply from reaching vital organs and can cause damage to organs and tissues. In the most serious of cases this can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure and death.

National charity, the UK Sepsis Trust estimates that every year in the UK, there are 150,000 cases of sepsis which result in 44,000 deaths.

Sepsis is most commonly triggered by an infection such as flu, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, a urinary tract infection, cellulitis or a post-surgical infection, The most common sites of infection leading to sepsis are the lungs (through a chest infection), the urinary tract (through a urine infection), the abdomen and the pelvis.

Sepsis can affect anyone who suffers an injury or infection. However, there are certain groups of people who are more at risk of contracting the condition. Those most at risk of developing sepsis include:

  • The very young
  • The very old
  • Those with medical conditions that weaken their immune system
  • Those receiving medical treatment that weakens their immune system, for example chemotherapy
  • Those who have just had surgery
  • Those who have suffered an injury as a result of an accident
  • Those who are pregnant

Red Flag Symptoms

Unfortunately sepsis symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from other conditions and this means that sepsis it is often misdiagnosed. Early symptoms to look out for include rapid breathing, a rapid heartbeat, a fever or a low body temperature, chills, shivering, aching muscles and tiredness.

As sepsis becomes more severe, the symptoms become more dangerous and may include dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, severe breathlessness, loss of consciousness and a change in mental state.

Treatment

When detected early, sepsis can often be treated successfully with intravenous antibiotics. However, once vital organs have been affected, a person can become very ill very quickly. In these cases, patients will require hospitalisation so that the body’s organs can be supported whilst the infection is treated.

Frequent errors that can lead on to clinical negligence claims include misdiagnosis, failure to recognise the symptoms of sepsis and delays in the diagnosis of sepsis or treatment.

If you ever suspect that you or someone else may be suffering from sepsis, it is important to seek urgent medical advice.

Sepsis in Newborns

Sepsis can be caused by a variety of bacteria entering into a person’s body including E-coli and MRSA. During pregnancy, approximately 25% of pregnant women carry a bacterium known as Group B Streptococcus (GBS). This bacterium is carried in the vagina. Women can carry this bacterium without suffering from any symptoms or side effects, however, it is possible that this can be passed onto a baby and GBS is a recognised cause of preterm delivery, stillbirth and late miscarriage.

Sadly, GBS is also known to be a leading cause of sepsis related deaths for babies in their first week of life. An early onset GBS infection usually presents as sepsis with pneumonia. Typical symptoms include rapid breathing, grunting, lethargy, low blood pressure and abnormal body temperature.

Failure to identify risk factors for sepsis or delay in the diagnosis or treatment can result in avoidable injuries and deaths.

How we can help – Sepsis Claims

Our specialist clinical negligence team at Freeths has considerable experience in handling clinical negligence claims involving misdiagnosis and delays in diagnosis or treatment of sepsis. We understand the devastating impact that sepsis can have on patients and their loved ones. We have successfully obtained compensation for patients and those bereaved as a result of sepsis. We recognise how important compensation can be in helping those affected by sepsis to rebuild their lives or in relieving financial worries.

Successful cases have included a claim that was settled for £200,000 on behalf of a 62 year old woman was who left with destruction of the shoulder joint and an ongoing chronic bone infection as a result of the failure to diagnosis septic arthritis and a delay in administering appropriate intravenous antibiotics.

Another successful case was a claim that settled for £250,000 brought on behalf of a widow who sadly lost her husband at age 39 because of a delay in diagnosis of a severe streptococcal infection which caused multiple organ failure and septic shock.

Contact us

If you or anyone in your family has been affected by sepsis and you have concerns about the medical treatment given, call the clinical negligence team on 01865 781000 for more information about your potential claim or send an email to clinicalnegligence@freeths.co.uk.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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