Failure to Diagnose and Treat Sepsis

Washington, D.C. Sepsis Misdiagnosis Lawyers

Aggressive advocates for patients injured by sepsis or septic shock

Infections are usually contained to one particular area. When they spread throughout the bloodstream, however, they can trigger a response by all of your organs. This type of infection is called sepsis, and if undiagnosed it can cause life-altering consequences. In the most tragic circumstances, sepsis can be fatal.

At Paulson & Nace, PLLC, we help victims and their families by fighting on their behalf. We are well known throughout Washington, D.C. for our comprehensive guidance and aggressive courtroom techniques. We know that you and your family are frightened and overwhelmed; our medical malpractice attorneys focus on the fight so that you can focus on the healing process and on making sure your family is secure in the future.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

Sepsis is a combination of symptoms that are the result of an infection, which can include symptoms such as vomiting, sore throat or diarrhea. A person with sepsis might also experience:

  • Shivering, fever or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate

Because the symptoms of sepsis such as high fever and difficulty breathing are also symptoms of other illnesses, doctors do not always recognize it as sepsis in the early stages of the condition. Sepsis must be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible after it is diagnosed. Depending on the progression, some patients will require intravenous fluids and oxygen to keep blood oxygen levels and blood pressure at normal levels.

“When sepsis occurs, it should be treated as a medical emergency.”
Tom Frieden, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Why sepsis is misdiagnosed

Because sepsis develops as the result of another illness or infection, doctors may misdiagnose their patients’ symptoms as unrelated to the original infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common signs of sepsis include:

  • Mild to moderate fever, or a body temperature that is lower than normal
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiration rate and/or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain

These symptoms may be the same as the illness the patient already has; thus, a doctor may not run the full gamut of testing necessary to diagnose sepsis. Patients who have already been released from the hospital may not realize they have developed another infection, either, and therefore they may not choose to seek treatment.

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Know the dangers of going into septic shock

There are three stages to sepsis that happen in fast succession, making this infection so dangerous. Stage one is known only as sepsis where you must have at least two symptoms to be diagnosable. Stage two is severe sepsis where the infection has worsened and is marked by having at least one symptom that may include:

  • Patches of discolored skin
  • Decreased urination
  • Low platelet count
  • Being sleepy, disoriented, or unconscious
  • Extreme pain, weakness, or discomfort
  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Shivering or feeling cold

The third stage of sepsis is shock, and it can be deadly; in fact, approximately 50% of all patients who go into septic shock die as a result. Because sepsis travels through the bloodstream, an undiagnosed infection can:

  • Increase your chance of developing infections in the future
  • Cause blood clots in your organs or extremities
  • Lead to tissue death
  • Lead to organ failure
  • Necessitate additional surgeries
  • Lead to the loss of your limbs

This is why it is crucial the staff at Washington, D.C. hospitals and nursing homes continually monitor a patient’s vital signs when he or she has had surgery or spent time in the intensive care unit. Patients exhibiting any of the signs of sepsis should be examined for open wounds (if applicable), have their urine and/or mucus tested, and perhaps have an X-ray or CT scan. Doctors who fail to diagnose the symptoms, or fail to order the proper diagnostic tests, could delay the necessary treatments needed to save your organs, your limbs and even your life.

At Paulson & Nace, we provide support and counsel to victims and their families when negligence has led to needless suffering. We investigate the evidence of your case and help you determine whether or not a lawsuit is in your best interest. We stick with our cases until the end, because we never give up on a client. We advocate on your behalf to ensure that you can protect yourself and your family.

How is sepsis diagnosed?

Once you show the correct combination of symptoms, doctors should perform testing to confirm the presence of the infection in your blood. This is why it is so important not to dismiss symptoms altogether as being part of a previously diagnosed illness.

Testing typically begins with simple blood work to check for basics such as kidney function and infection. Moving on from there you may require a:

  • Urine testing for the presence of bacteria
  • Wound secretion test to determine if a wound or surgical incision shows infection
  • Mucus secretion test to locate germs behind the infection
  • X-ray of your lungs
  • CT scans for of your joints
  • Ultrasounds to determine infection in your abdomen
  • MRI scan to view infections in soft tissue

All in all, the battery of tests used to diagnose sepsis is largely non-invasive leaving little excuse as to why doctors risk your life. If caught early enough, the treatment generally consists of antibiotics administered intravenously in conjunction with other medications to normalize bodily functions that have been affected. The more time the infection has to spread, the more invasive the treatment protocol becomes and lower your odds are of recovering.

What is flu-related sepsis, and should i be concerned?

Time is of the essence when it comes to being able to catch and cure certain conditions like sepsis. Failure to do so can be an act of medical malpractice, and it can lead to a wrongful death in a matter of hours. Whether it’s a result of an overconfident doctor who has “seen it all” or it is due to a backlog of patients that leave little time to thoroughly assess each individual, it’s medical malpractice when a patient’s condition worsens causing them harm or they die.

Flu is one common illness that has factored into sepsis being overlooked. Some of the symptoms coincide with those that come with the flu - body aches, loss of appetite, headache, and low-grade fever. Because the flu is a viral infection, the body can have a severe reaction to it, which can cause sepsis to form.

Often, doctors dismiss flu patients with a course of Tamiflu or provide instructions to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever. This advice is still the standard course of treatment despite one-third of the world’s sepsis cases leading to death, and these deaths have been shown to spike during “flu season.”

Experienced Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorneys handling sepsis claims

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition. At Paulson & Nace, PLLC, we offer you the support and legal guidance you need to make informed decisions about your future. If you or your family member developed sepsis in a Washington, D.C., or hospital, and you believe that it was the result of medical negligence, please call 202.463.1999 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.