What you need to know about sepsis - the condition, life after, and support available
In this guide, our team reviews all the essential information you might need to know whether you have experienced sepsis yourself, or just want to find out more about the condition.
How and when you should “think sepsis”
Sepsis, or septicaemia, is a very serious and frequent condition that arises when the body’s response to infection causes damage to the body itself. It can lead to the body going into shock causing tissue damage, organ failure and, in some extreme circumstances, death.
Symptoms of sepsis can include:
- a fever above 38ºC or below 36ºC
- a rapid heart rate (over 90 BPM)
- a rapid breathing rate (over 20 breaths per minute)
- feeling extremely unwell
- probable or confirmed infection.
In order for a doctor to confirm a diagnosis of sepsis you will usually be showing at least two of these symptoms.
The diagnosis and treatment of sepsis – what you need to know
Some of the common signs and symptoms of sepsis infection include:
- fever to include a high or low temperature
- a raised heart rate
- a raised breathing rate
- a low blood pressure
- a reduction in urine
- altered mental state
What is the correct treatment for suspected sepsis?
When more mild symptoms of infection are present, further tests should be arranged to include blood tests to look for markers of inflammation and clotting abnormalities and a person should be reviewed by a doctor within an hour.
If more severe symptoms of infection are present, sepsis should be suspected, and the ‘sepsis pathway’ implemented immediately.
The sepsis pathway includes:
- administering oxygen to ensure that the amount of oxygen in the blood stays at a healthy level;
- taking blood cultures to try and identify the presence of bacteria in the blood;
- giving intravenous antibiotics within 1 hour;
- giving intravenous fluids within 1 hour;
- testing lactate levels (lactate is produced by the body during periods of oxygen deprivation and trauma); and
- measuring urine output.
If a person is still not improving after delivering the sepsis pathway, then the critical care outreach team should be called immediately.
Life after sepsis – finding the right support
Sepsis can be a long and traumatic condition, and you may feel at a loss as to how to get help once you have been discharged from hospital, especially because residual symptoms are frequently not visible to others. However, there is support out there, and as part of our experience with sepsis claims we understand the range of support available
What you might be experiencing
Some people experience what is known as Post-Sepsis Syndrome (PSS), which is a variable set of physical, psychological and/or emotional symptoms while recovering from sepsis, including but not limited to:
- reduced mobility/muscle weakness
- swollen limbs
- joint/muscle pain
- poor concentration/short term memory loss
These symptoms, or a combination of these, can last anywhere from six to 18 months (or even longer).
You may need to speak to your doctor about PSS symptoms, to try and find ways of managing those symptoms. However, if you bring a claim with us, there are a range of specialists we can help with referrals to in order to help rehabilitate you.
There is not a single approach to dealing with PSS, but professionals we have worked with when clients experience PSS include:
The physiotherapist’s role is to plan and implement a treatment programme with the aim of restoring function and independence.
A tailored plan will be devised around your specific circumstances, including rehabilitation programmes to help you regain muscle function and mobility, reduce joint pain and inflammation, and build stamina.
Occupational therapists are instrumental in helping you return to independent living as far as possible and to support you in doing activities that matter to you. There are a wide range of tasks that an OT can help with by suggesting appropriate aids, equipment and adaptations to help you navigate your life post-sepsis, both at home and at work.
OTs can also help you return to old hobbies or find new ones, as well as give you advice on returning to work if this is proving difficult.
You may be signposted to a variety of mental health services to assist with any psychological symptoms you may be experiencing. These services may include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), helplines, community services or your GP.
These are professionals who are able to help you find strategies to deal with any pain you are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Depending on the source and level of your pain, treatment can include:
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
- interventional procedures such as nerve block injections or epidurals
- non-interventional procedures such as physiotherapy
- self-management techniques
If your sepsis treatment has involved limb loss you may be referred to a prosthetist. A prosthetist is a specialist in prosthetics, i.e. the artificial limb/device that replaces a missing body part. Prostheses are intended to restore normal functions of a missing body part as far as possible.
A prosthetist will be crucial to assessing your suitability for using a prosthetic and the specific type/size that may be appropriate. Successful use of a prosthetic often involves many appointments and trials to ensure an optimal fit in order to maximise comfort and function.
Our specialist team can help you to find the right support following a claim for negligent treatment of sepsis, including any of the above. Find out more about making a claim for sepsis right here.
Resources for when you’ve experienced sepsis
The leading sepsis charity in the UK, the trust campaigns for political change, raises public awareness, educates health professionals and provides support for those affected by sepsis.
Tel: 0800 389 6255
Although this is the leading sepsis charity in the US, the Alliance aims to improve awareness and care of sepsis, providing a wide range of resources and information on their website.
The Limbless Association helps amputees with support for their lives beyond limb loss, if you have experienced an amputation as a result of sepsis they may be able to offer support.
If your child has experienced a brain injury as a result of sepsis, CBIT can help you get the support you and your family needs.
The Brain Injury Group offers a range of support for those who have experienced brain injury, including case management.
Meningitis can lead to sepsis, and so Meningitis Now could be a good place to go for support if someone close to you has experienced injury as a result of these conditions.
Group B strep infection can in some cases lead to sepsis also, which in turn may lead to brain injuries in newborns. GBSS have a wealth of experience helping families find the support they need when their lives have been impacted by group B strep.