Written By: James C. Lewis, Esq.
Shapiro, Lewis, & Appleton
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Early detection is critical to successful treatment in medical situations. That is definitely the case with a condition known as sepsis. The difference between life and death can come down to a quick diagnosis. This is why a new device for detecting and managing sepsis is a welcome development in the medical field.
Sepsis diagnoses in the United States are increasing every day and account for 1.6 million hospitalizations a year. The condition is caused by different types of bacteria that can, on the surface, appear to be just a minor injury or illness. However, sepsis attacks the body quickly and the effects can be devastating. It can result in whole-body organ failure, the need for amputations, and a mortality rate that is between 20 to 50 percent, depending on how quickly victims are diagnosed and treated.
Unfortunately, timely diagnosis and treatment of sepsis has not been a straight-forward practice for doctors. The patient may suffer from symptoms—fever, low blood pressure, racing heartbeat—that could be indicative of many different disorders. Even if sepsis is suspected, without knowing the specific strain of bacteria for an individual patient, doctors are unable to prescribe the best medication—which is particularly important because many strains of bacteria that cause sepsis are resistant to specific types of antibiotics. Therefore, prescribing the right antibiotic is crucial to combatting the horrific effect of sepsis.
This means the key for successful outcomes in preventing and treating sepsis is the ability to quickly test for the bacteria and begin administering appropriate antibiotic treatment. In fact, one study has found that for every hour of delay in antibiotic treatment, the mortality rate increases by nearly 8 percent. The Verigene Gram-positive Blood Culture Nucleic Acid Test, recently approved the Food and Drug Administraton and now being tested in hospitals, aims to address this problem. In just a matter of three hours—instead of three days for traditional blood tests—the device will identify bacteria responsible for bloodstream infections and whether they are drug-resistant strains.
This device sounds extremely promising in the treatment of sepsis and will hopefully save some lives.
Jim is a personal injury attorney who handles car accidents, medical malpractice, FELA and wrongful death.