One of the biggest challenges in modern medicine is how to prevent or combat sepsis, a condition in which the body fights off infections, but does so in extreme and dangerous ways.
Residents of Burbank and elsewhere diagnosed with sepsis can quickly suffer massive organ damage, even death. Recovery can also be a significant challenge since the body is even weaker than it was from the initial infection, often requiring 24-hour care.
The team at Accredited Home Care works hard to educate our clients on this condition, including alerting them to possible risk factors, signs to watch for and what to do and how to get help if they or a family member concerned about it.
This also means our staff needs to be especially familiar with sepsis since we’re the ones responsible for observing and listening to clients describe what they’re seeing and feeling, especially if they’re in a higher risk category of contracting it.
Because this dangerous condition can often accelerate quickly, it’s important that all of our team members know what they’re looking for and how to rapidly get clients the help they need if they believe someone has sepsis.
That’s part of the reason we always like having the services of Licensed Vocational Nurses on staff. We’re always happy to work with RNs as well, but LVNs are especially useful in working closely with clients and using their nursing skills to assess possible situations where sepsis could occur.
Or, if someone has already been diagnosed with sepsis, an LVN can also focus on trying to make sure it doesn’t spread or return, along with helping the client’s recovery.
What to look for
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, sepsis can be triggered when an infection is already taking place somewhere in your body, such as your lungs, skin, digestive system or urinary tract. These could include fungal, viral or bacterial infections, including pneumonia.
In normal situations, the body’s immune system does a standard job of fighting off infections. But in sepsis situations, the infection causes an unusual reaction and a more aggressive chemical response, so the body’s out-of-balance defenses begin attacking multiple areas rapidly, including organs and limbs.
In many cases, the condition can lead to permanent damage to tissue which may cause gangrene or require amputation. Organs may be threatened or even shut down, causing even more problems in the body. Sepsis also may result in a drop in blood pressure which could also be damaging or fatal. With so many toxins and instability in the body and bloodstream, death is also possible the longer someone battles sepsis.
The CDC said the risk pool for those with the condition includes:
- People with chronic medical conditions including cancers, kidney disease or diabetes.
- Seniors (age 65 and over)
- People with weak immune systems
- Infants (age 1 or less)
- People with recent wounds
People with invasive devices like breathing tubes or catheters
- Pregnant women
- People at general risk for infection
Another possible increase in the risk is recent hospitalization, especially someone who has recently had surgery. This could make someone even more vulnerable to infections. People who are currently hospitalized are also at risk.
Common symptoms can include pain, fatigue, fever, breathing problems, and general confusion. Infections that don’t go away with normal treatment or a standard time are also another possible indicator.
Advanced sepsis can lead to a condition called sepsis shock, which is even more dangerous to the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, this state involves changes to the circulatory system, including unstable blood pressure, strong mental confusion and high amounts of lactic acid in the bloodstream. Lactic acid could indicate that cells aren’t regulating oxygen properly.
The condition potentially progresses as it affects other organs, including blood clots, blood flow problems, and brain damage. Even if someone is stabilized and monitored, they still are at high risk of future infections.
How LVNs can help
Symptoms of sepsis are often difficult to detect individually since they often are common symptoms of other conditions or infections. But when they’re all looked at together, they could indicate possible larger problems taking place.
Or, in some cases, not all the symptoms may show up which makes it even more of a challenge for a client to self-diagnose. That’s why it helps for an LVN or someone else with medical and nursing training to observe, evaluate or diagnose. They also can draw blood that could indicate the presence of infections or work under the supervision of other nurses.
LVNs will have the opportunity to study the client’s medical history, including any recent hospitalizations or courses of antibiotics, and also assess their current health, such as taking blood pressure or consulting with the client’s primary providers or other medical professionals.
For instance, if someone has had recent surgery, their medical team will still be interested in making sure they’re healing properly and any infections are minimized.
Sepsis is definitely a condition to be concerned about but nurses can help clients get the help they need. Sepsis is definitely a condition to be concerned about but nurses can help clients get the help they need. If you’re a nurse and would like to be part of this effort, please reach out!