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The changing nature of the definition for sepsis

Sepsis is a public health concern. Sepsis results in approximately 200,000 deaths in the United States every year. Unfortunately, exact data for sepsis is difficult to gather due to discrepancies with the definition.

How can we get better data about sepsis? It is important to have a consistent definition. In order to achieve this goal, a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) calls for an update.  

Why the need for an update? The definition for sepsis has been the same since 2001. The authors note the advances made in the medical field have triggered a need to update the definition of the term sepsis and septic shock.

The authors state the previous definition put too much of a focus on inflammation. This resulted in a misleading model. This issue, along with the fact that various definitions for the term are currently in use, result in discrepancies. As such, the authors recommended use of the following definition for sepsis:

  • "[L]ife-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection."

And septic shock defined as:

  • "[A] subset of sepsis in which particularly profound circulatory, cellular, and metabolic abnormalities are associated with a greater risk of mortality than with sepsis alone."

Will medical professionals adapt these changes? The authors proposed these changes in 2016. The medical community grappled with the changes throughout 2016 and 2017, noting the updated definition helped with early diagnosis. However, it is important to note that even with this most recent change, the authors note the definition will likely need to be revisited and updated again in the future.

Early intervention is an important step towards successful treatment. Those who believe their medical professional failed to recognize the symptoms of sepsis and are considering a medical malpractice claim are wise to seek legal counsel to discuss their options.  

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