Consumers Need To Be Aware of Threat of Sepsis
Library: MED
Description: Every minute more than two people die from severe sepsis in the United States. It's the leading cause of death in the ICU and takes more lives than breast, colon/rectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer combined.


Contact: Lisa Doty, SCCM (847) 827-7298

Katie Lundberg, SCCM (847) 827-7502

Consumers Need To Be Aware of Threat of Sepsis, Says Society of Critical Care Medicine Expert

Boston, MA, June 28, 2002 -- Every minute more than two people die from severe sepsis in the United States. It's the leading cause of death in the ICU and takes more lives than breast, colon/rectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer combined. And, the numbers are getting worse.

"Sepsis can strike anyone, but it often develops from infections associated with trauma, surgery, burns or cancer," Jean-Louis Vincent, MD, PhD, FCCM, Professor and Head of the Department of Intensive Care, Erasme University Hospital, University of Brussels, Belgium, said at the Society of Critical Care Medicine's Writers Workshop held here today. "When someone dies of 'complications' from cancer or pneumonia, it is more than likely caused by severe sepsis."

The incidence of sepsis is expected to rise to one million by the end of the decade as the population ages. In fact, a recent study conducted by Emory University reviewed records from 1979 to 1999 and found that sepsis has increased in both children and adults by 329 percent in these 20 years. Researchers said the rise is due to doctors becoming more proficient at diagnosing the infection. And they're overusing antibiotics, which create drug-resistant germs making the disease harder to fight.

Sepsis is the body's response to an infection. Patients developing sepsis progress from ill to seriously ill, onto organ dysfunction and failure (called severe sepsis) and then to septic shock.

The symptoms of sepsis can include:
* Fever and shaking chills
* Reduced mental alertness, sometimes with confusion
* Nausea and vomiting
* Diarrhea in the presence of infection
* Sometimes hypotension
* Sometimes altered kidney or liver function

Costs for treating patients with severe sepsis, in the United States alone, is estimated to be $15 billion each year. Expenditures for each patient are due to:
* Intensive care unit charges
* Physicians and nursing care
* Mechanical ventilation
* Drug therapy

The following tips can help you protect yourself against sepsis:
1. Prevention. Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol can increase your chance of developing sepsis.
2. Time. Sepsis can develop quickly. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the better.
3. Awareness. The normal symptoms of an infection should not last longer than five days and a fever should be no higher than 102 or 103. If the fever exceeds 103 degrees with chills, confusion or difficulty breathing, the patient should be taken to the hospital immediately.

"If you develop these symptoms, make sure you tell your doctor that you are concerned that you may have sepsis," said Dr. Vincent. "Sepsis can be confused with other diseases and conditions by a doctor who is not familiar with it. Because early treatment is crucial, the faster you are diagnosed, the better your chances of making a full recovery are."

The Society of Critical Care Medicine is the leading professional organization dedicated to ensuring excellence and consistency in the practice of critical care medicine. With over 10,000 members worldwide, the Society is the only professional organization devoted exclusively to the advancement of multidisciplinary, multiprofessional intensive care through excellence in patient care, professional education, public education, research and advocacy. Members of the Society include intensivists, critical care nurses, critical care pharmacists, clinical pharmacologists, respiratory care practitioners and other professionals with an interest in critical care, which may include physician assistants, social workers, dieticians, and members of the clergy.

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Editor's Note: This news conference is also available as a teleconference. Please contact Lisa Doty at SCCM for registration information at (847) 398-1217,