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Misdiagnosing sepsis: When Arizona doctors make a deadly mistake

Misdiagnosis of an illness or disease can have detrimental and sometimes even fatal results. This is why the CDC has launched a public awareness campaign about sepsis. Sepsis is a complication that can occur when the body reacts badly to an infection. It can cause tissue damage, organ failure, and even result in death. And it is often missed in emergency rooms.

Characteristics of Sepsis

In most cases, both adults and children who develop sepsis were at risk because of another health condition. The most common types of conditions associated with sepsis are lung, urinary tract, skin, or gut infections. Staphylococcus aureus, E Coli, and some forms of Streptococcus germs can also cause sepsis. It is most commonly diagnosed amongst adults over the age of 65 or children under the age of one, those with weakened immune systems, or people with chronic illnesses. And although it is not as common, normally healthy children and adults who have an infection can also develop sepsis. Symptoms include:

  • Shivering, fever, or feeling very cold.
  • Extreme pain or discomfort.
  • Having sweaty or clammy skin.
  • Feelings of confusion or disorientation.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • A very high heart rate.

    Prevention of Sepsis

    It is very important that healthcare providers understand how to prevent the infections and illnesses that can lead to sepsis. The most effective way to prevent sepsis is to follow infection control requirements such as washing hands and making sure patients are up to date on all recommended vaccines. Educating patients and their families on what to do to prevent infections and manage any chronic conditions they might have is also critical for prevention. They can also stress the urgency of seeking medical help if an infection becomes severe or they show signs of possible sepsis.

    It is also important that healthcare providers are able to recognize the symptoms of sepsis and act fast if a patient is exhibiting these symptoms. Tests need to be ordered to determine the cause of the infection and any treatments such as antibiotics started immediately. This is critical because sepsis can be deadly.

    Misdiagnosis and Medical Malpractice Claims

    Misdiagnosis of infections such as these is one of the most common types of medical malpractice claims that are filed. The 2015 Institute of Medicine report says that these types of errors are almost twice as likely to result in death when compared to other claims. Sepsis is called the "unrecognized killer" by the CDC because it can go unrecognized until it is too late. A wrongful death lawsuit due to sepsis was filed against Tucson Medical Center in 2015. They have made several emergency room changes to processes and procedures since this incident.

    Being misdiagnosed while under the care of healthcare providers can have severe or even fatal results. Victims or the loved ones of victims of a misdiagnosis of sepsis may find it helpful to consult with an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice.

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