The definition of sepsis is the condition when the body mounts a dangerous inflammatory response to an infection. When sepsis advances to the point that it causes vital organ damage and even death, it’s called septic shock.
Sometimes infections are caused by negligent medical care and sometimes they’re not.
For example, I’ve handled many medical negligence cases where patients had a perforated bowel or stomach as a surgical complication. When the surgeon doesn’t recognize and repair the hole, the contents of those organs leak into the abdominal cavity and cause an infection that leads to sepsis.
In other cases, patients arrive at the emergency room with an infection and sepsis but haven’t had any recent surgery or medical treatment that could be the cause.
I’m working on a case now in the Bryan/College Station, Texas area, where a woman went to a hospital for a surgery to have her gallbladder removed (cholecystectomy). Unfortunately, the surgeon perforated her bowel and didn’t recognize it while she was still in the operating room. After she was discharged home, the woman developed an infection and made repeated calls to her doctor and nurse about pain and other symptoms.
Her family was so concerned that they returned her to the emergency room (ER) at the same hospital.
The medical expert whom we hired to review the medical records noted that she was already in sepsis when she arrived at the emergency room. He knew this because of these signs: hypotension (low blood pressure), tachycardia (high heart rate), metabolic acidosis, leukocytopenia (low white blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count), and acute renal failure in a setting of unrelenting, increasing abdominal pain. All of these were new signs that had developed in the 48 hours after surgery.
Despite this concerning clinical situation, the ER physician didn’t diagnose her with sepsis or begin a workup and treatment, including orders for antibiotics, a lactate lab, and an urgent call to the surgeon to return her to the operating room.
Sadly, this dear lady died. We are working on a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit now.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.