Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of infection that causes inflammation (swelling) throughout the body. In its advanced stages (severe sepsis/septic shock), the inflammation causes tiny blood clots to form, blocking oxygen from vital organs. This can lead to organ failure and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sepsis is on the rise due to an aging population, more people with weakened immune systems from HIV and cancer treatments, and an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. El Camino Health’s clinicians monitor patients for signs of sepsis. Catching it early can help protect the health of patients and prevent complications.
Identifying Sepsis at the Earliest Stages
One of the challenges of diagnosing sepsis is recognizing the condition in its early stages, since the early symptoms are similar to a variety of other illnesses. In addition, people with recent trauma can have symptoms similar to sepsis — these symptoms are called SIRS (systemic inflammatory response syndrome).
El Camino Health has the ability to use noninvasive cardiac output monitoring (NICOM) — a mobile electronic device with stick-on sensors for the chest — to detect changes in blood flow and determine whether tissues are getting enough oxygen. This type of monitoring allows clinicians to quickly determine specific interventions necessary for the patient, such as intravenous (IV) fluid or medications to maintain blood pressure.
A Model of Best Practices
The standardized procedures we’ve developed around the prevention and treatment of sepsis have made a difference in the health of our patients. While most hospitals expect a mortality rate from sepsis of more than 20 percent, our rate has consistently been below that for more than five years. We’ve shared our successful techniques at numerous international and national venues.
The Sepsis Program is supported by donations to El Camino Health Foundation.