Septic Shock / Sepsis

In prosecuting nursing home neglect and abuse claims throughout the Jacksonville area, our lawyers tend to see the same types of injuries, infections and negligence time and time again. This is because understaffing of nursing homes prevents the nurses and nursing assistants from being able to provide adequate and individualized care to residents.

The most common cause of wrongful death in a nursing home that we see is septic shock. Septic shock occurs when an infection is allowed to spiral out of control, and, in attempting to fight the infection, the body’s immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream that cause an inflammatory response that can lead to multi-organ failure and death.

Septic shock is entirely preventable. To prevent septic shock, nursing home staff must be trained to watch for the signs and symptoms. In order to do so, the nursing staff must have enough time to spend with each resident to notice the symptoms. Often, nursing home residents are unable to effectively communicate pain or other symptoms they are experiencing.

Common symptoms of sepsis include: a high or low fever; increased heart rate (pulse); increased breathing rate (respirations); confusion; decreased blood pressure; loss of appetite; low output of urine; lethargy; and unconsciousness. The underlying infections that commonly lead to sepsis include: urinary tract infections; clostridium difficile (“c. diff.”); upper respiratory infections; pneumonia; bedsores or decubitus ulcers; and feeding tube sites.

Catching and treating the infections early is the key to preventing septic shock and death. Once a person suffers septic shock, he or she may suffer irreversible injury or death within hours. Thirty to seventy percent of people that suffer septic shock die. Nursing home residents face a higher likelihood of death given that they are typically older and have other underlying health issues. Sepis is the most common cause of death of people that have been hospitalized and is estimated to cause two hundred thousand deaths per year in the United States.

If sepsis is suspected the following measures should be taken: a basic metabolic panel, which is a blood test, to look for, among other things, white blood cell counts; the administration of antibiotic or antiviral medications; intravenous fluids to increase blood pressure; blood cultures; high flow oxygen; treatment of the underlying infection; vasopressors (norepinephrine); and ventilation or intubation.

Septic shock is simply unacceptable for a nursing home resident. In prosecuting these cases, we find: nursing home records that reflect a lack of charting for any care or assessment for many days; the failure to record vital signs for weeks at a time; the failure to follow doctors’ orders for antibiotics; the presence of urinary tract infections resulting from a failure to change and clean residents appropriately and timely; a sudden loss of appetite with no attempt to determine a cause; sudden confusion; severe pain without a cause determined; and significant delay in sending a resident to the hospital.

If you or a loved one suffered sepsis or septic shock while a resident of a nursing home in the Jacksonville area, our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are always at the ready to take your call or meet with you in person to discuss your concerns. If we accept your case, you pay us nothing unless we make a recovery for you.