Ways of spotting sepsis

March 23, 2010 2:09:54 PM PDT
Whether it's from our growing resistance to antibiotics or an increase in invasive medical procedures, sepsis deaths are on the rise in the U.S. Sepsis is a severe, uncontrolled whole body response to infection that can become a fatal complication for hospital patients. Now, one hospital is pioneering a new system to try to stop it.

For retired printer John Muren, the only thing harder than undergoing a colostomy procedure was fighting the infection they discovered afterwards.

"I really didn't know what all I had. I just figured, well I'll fight it and see what happens," John Muren, a former sepsis patient, told Ivanhoe.

Sepsis happens when your body responds to an infection. It's the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., and one-third of people who get it will die. It costs more than 17 billion dollars in health care a year.

Banner Desert Medical Center is the first in the nation to use a new sepsis detection system. Every two hours, patients are screened using a scientifically-validated algorithm designed to red flag warning signs for sepsis -- like changes in temperature, heart rate, respiratory function, and white blood cell count.

"It looks for trends, changes in trends, and helps identify those patients earlier than the bedside staff could do," Crystal Jenkins of Banner Desert Medical Center explained to Ivanhoe.

Any patient showing signs of severe sepsis goes straight to intensive care for aggressive intervention to prevent serious consequences like organ failure.

"If a patient is started on these aggressive protocols earlier, we potentially will save lives and get them out of the hospital earlier," Kirsten Hulley, an ICU Nurse, told Ivanhoe.

Getting patients the treatment they need to stop sepsis in its tracks.

"Well if they didn't, I wouldn't be here," Muren said. "The infection would have taken over."

Now that the sepsis is gone, Muren's grateful for another chance at life. Earlier this year, the new sepsis program identified an additional 60 patients with sepsis over a two-month period. This was above and beyond the sepsis patients identified by the hospital staff. The program is part of a larger, international effort that has reduced sepsis mortality by 20-percent over a 24-month period.

For More Information, Contact: Crystal Jenkins, R.N. Banner Desert Medical Center Phoenix, AZ Crystal.Jenkins@bannerhealth.com


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