Regional Medical Center of San Jose was one of the first hospitals in California to receive Sepsis Certification from The Joint Commission. That means Regional’s doctors and nurses follow evidence-based care, which reduces sepsis mortality with early detection and rapid treatment.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is the body's overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Not everyone who has an infection will develop sepsis, yet everyone with sepsis has an infection. Sepsis occurs when the body responds to an infection by releasing chemical agents called toxins into the bloodstream.
These toxins trigger widespread inflammation which, over time, can slow blood flow and damage your organs.
If sepsis becomes severe, it progresses to septic shock in which blood pressure drops dramatically and organs don’t get enough oxygen to continue to function.
Septic shock carries the highest risk of complications and death. Patients with septic shock will be admitted to the hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to get around-the-clock care.
Symptoms of Sepsis
If an infection occurs anywhere – on the patient’s skin, in the urinary tract, or in the lungs, as with pneumonia – patients have an increased risk for developing sepsis. This is one reason why it is important to seek care from a physician immediately if you have signs of an infection that is worsening. Remember, most people who have and infection will never develop sepsis, but everyone with sepsis has an infection. Early sepsis symptoms include:
- Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
- Heart rate >90 beats per minute (bpm)
- Fast respiratory rate-short of breath
- Altered mental status (confusion/difficult to rouse/coma)
- Edema (swelling)
- Pale or discolored skin
- High blood glucose without diabetes
How Do You Get Sepsis?
Anyone can get sepsis anywhere, but you can’t catch it from someone else. It’s most common among the elderly, people with a long-term illness (like diabetes or cancer), those with a weakened immune system, and babies less than 3 months old.
It happens inside your body, when an infection you already have -- in your skin, lungs, or urinary tract, for example -- spreads or triggers an immune system response that affects other organs or systems. Sepsis can rage in response to incidents as seemingly benign as a playground scrape or a nicked cuticle from the beauty parlor. Most infections, however, don't lead to sepsis. If you have sepsis, you’ll need to get proper treatment in a hospital.
Sepsis is treated as a medical emergency. Early detection and rapid evidence-based treatment reduces the risk of complications and death.
As a sepsis patient, you may be admitted to a regular hospital room or to the Intensive Care Unit, depending on the severity of your condition. Your doctor will begin administering antibiotics to fight the infection, and will also begin IV fluids, oxygen, and other medications to keep your blood pressure from falling and to support your body. As an additional safety precaution, Regional has a Rapid Response Team (RRT) which includes specially trained nurses who monitor sepsis inpatients and escalate their treatment to a higher level, if needed.
Patients with severe sepsis or septic shock may be treated at Regional with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a life-saving partial heart-lung bypass procedure for critically ill patients Regional is one of just a few California hospitals to use the portable heart-lung support system, which is designed to save lives of adult patients whose heart and/or lungs are failing and who need cardiac and/or pulmonary support.
How is Sepsis Prevented?
Prevent sepsis by preventing infections that can lead to it. It is also critical that everyone:
- Get appropriate, recommended vaccinations to prevent illnesses,
- Practice thorough hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently, and
- Clean cuts or wounds thoroughly if you are injured.
If you already have an infection, you can help lessen the chances of developing sepsis or prevent it entirely by:
- Taking antibiotics as prescribed;
- Finishing the entire course of antibiotics;
- Seeking medical help if an illness or infection doesn’t improve.
For patients who come to the hospital with sepsis or are at risk of sepsis in the hospital, we are bringing the tools of the best science, computerized monitoring, and “big data” to make sure that we stop sepsis early today and even predict and prevent sepsis tomorrow.