What Are the 3 Stages of Sepsis?

Friday, January 12, 2024

What Are the 3 Stages of Sepsis?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

In nursing home abuse cases, sepsis often develops. Sepsis is a condition that results from an infection—a type of chain reaction that is triggered in the stomach, kidneys, lungs, or bladder. While bacterial infections often lead to sepsis, other infections also can manifest into the illness.

For example, blood poisoning or pneumonia, or similar illnesses can develop into a severe immune response. Whenever you experience any type of infection, the immune system springs into action, releasing substances and proteins to combat the illness. When sepsis develops, it means the response is out of control, which triggers inflammation.

Besides bacterial infections, sepsis can develop, more specifically, from fungal infections, COVID-19, and the flu. Sepsis may cause the patient to have trouble breathing. In some cases, they may develop an increased heart rate or fever.

In any of these instances, doctors must act fast to treat the illness, or prevent septic shock, a medical condition related to organ failure, reduced blood pressure, and widespread tissue damage.

To understand how sepsis develops, it helps to look at the three stages of progression. Inflammation from an infection is what causes the chain reaction. If a patient is not properly treated and an infection develops, you’ll need to review the circumstances with a knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorney.

The First Stage of Sepsis

The first stage is known as sepsis or systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), occurs when the body’s immune system launches an overwhelming response to an infection. This initial stage is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including fever, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. In some cases, the infection may be localized, such as in an open wound or a urinary tract infection, but it can also spread throughout the body.

During the first stage of sepsis, the body begins to show signs of an immune response gone haywire. The immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight off the infection, but these chemicals can also cause wide-ranging inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can damage organs and disrupt normal bodily functions, leading to further complications if not treated promptly.

The Second Stage of Sepsis

This stage is commonly referred to as severe sepsis. As the body tries to fight off the infection, the immune system can overreact and cause widespread inflammation, damaging organs and tissues.

One of the key characteristics of the second stage of sepsis is the onset of organ dysfunction. The inflammation can lead to decreased blood flow to vital organs, compromising their function. Commonly affected organs include the kidneys, liver, and lungs. As organ function deteriorates, patients may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, decreased urine output, and confusion.

The Third Stage of Sepsis

The third stage of sepsis is the aforementioned septic shock phase, a severe complication that, again, reduces blood pressure and affects respiration. During this stage, heart failure or a stroke may occur, or the patient may end up dying.

Unfortunately, nursing home neglect often leads to sepsis, especially when certain protocols against infection aren’t met. For example, patient rooms should be cleaned properly, and staff members should isolate residents who show signs of illness.

Healthcare providers should wear gowns, gloves, and masks when following the protocol for isolation. They should also wash their hands before treating each patient.

Septic shock is characterized by severe symptoms such as rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion, and decreased urine output. The body’s immune system, instead of fighting the infection, starts attacking its own organs and tissues, causing widespread damage.

Prompt medical intervention is critical in the third stage of sepsis. Treatment may involve aggressive fluid resuscitation, administration of antibiotics, and supportive care to stabilize blood pressure. In some cases, patients may require intensive care monitoring and organ support through methods such as mechanical ventilation or dialysis.

Causes of Sepsis and Septic Shock

Sepsis is caused by an infection that enters your bloodstream and triggers an overwhelming immune response. Common sources of infection can include pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections. If left untreated, sepsis can progress to septic shock, a life-threatening condition characterized by significantly low blood pressure and organ failure.

Signs and Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of sepsis is crucial for early detection and treatment. The common signs of sepsis include a high fever, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, confusion, dizziness, and decreased urination. It’s important to note that the symptoms of sepsis can vary from person to person.

Testing for Sepsis

Early diagnosis of sepsis is critical for a successful outcome. Medical professionals use various tests to determine if someone has sepsis, including blood tests, urine tests, imaging scans, and cultures to identify the source of the infection.

How long does sepsis take to develop?

In some cases, sepsis can progress rapidly, leading to severe symptoms within hours. For example, in cases of septic shock, where the infection overwhelms the body’s systems, a person may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure and organ failure. This rapid onset demands immediate medical attention to prevent further complications.

On the other hand, sepsis can also develop gradually over a few days. It often starts with symptoms that may seem mild or unrelated, such as fever, chills, and fatigue. Over time, these symptoms may become more pronounced and be accompanied by difficulty breathing, confusion, and a rapid heart rate. It is crucial not to dismiss these early signs, as early detection and treatment can greatly improve the chances of recovery.

If you suspect sepsis, it is vital to seek medical help without delay. Healthcare professionals can evaluate your symptoms, conduct tests to identify the underlying infection, and provide appropriate treatment. Remember, sepsis is a medical emergency, and swift action is crucial for a positive outcome.

The development of sepsis can vary from person to person and depends on several factors. It can manifest rapidly within hours or take a few days to fully develop. Regardless of the speed of progression, early detection and prompt medical attention are vital for the management and treatment of sepsis. 

How long can you live with sepsis untreated?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The prognosis for sepsis varies greatly depending on the individual’s overall health, the extent of the infection, and how quickly medical intervention is sought. However, it is safe to say that sepsis is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Every second counts when it comes to diagnosing and treating sepsis.

The mortality rate for sepsis increases dramatically the longer it goes untreated. In fact, studies have shown that the risk of death from sepsis increases by 8% for every hour that treatment is delayed. This underscores the critical importance of recognizing the symptoms of sepsis and seeking medical help immediately. Time is of the essence when it comes to sepsis, and every minute matters in increasing your chances of survival.

Seeking legal representation from a medical malpractice attorney promptly can also make a significant difference when it comes to sepsis cases. A skilled attorney can help assess the situation, gather evidence, and determine if medical negligence or malpractice played a role in the delay of treatment. They can guide you through the legal process and fight to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve if medical negligence is proven.

The question of “how long can you live with sepsis untreated?” cannot be answered with a specific time frame. The implications of untreated sepsis can be dire, and seeking immediate medical help is crucial. It is equally important to consider consulting an experienced attorney who has knowledge in medical malpractice cases related to sepsis, as they can provide valuable guidance and support in seeking justice and compensation. Remember, time is of the essence in both medical and legal matters, so do not hesitate to take action.

Treatments for Sepsis

Treating sepsis typically involves addressing the underlying infection, providing supportive care, and managing complications. Antibiotics are commonly used to combat the infection, and intravenous fluids and medications are administered to stabilize blood pressure and support vital organ function. In severe cases, intensive care may be required, including mechanical ventilation and kidney dialysis.

Risk Factors for Sepsis

While anyone can develop sepsis, certain individuals are at a higher risk. Factors that increase the risk of sepsis include advanced age, weakened immune system, chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer, invasive medical procedures, and prolonged hospitalization.

If you believe that medical negligence has contributed to your loved one’s sepsis diagnosis in a nursing home, it is essential to consult with a nursing home neglect attorney who can evaluate your case and provide guidance on your legal rights.

Healthcare-Acquired Infections (HAIs)

Healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) may also result when patients are transferred from hospital settings into the nursing home. Also, if bedsores are not properly treated, the patient may experience sepsis.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) states that, even with innovations in sepsis treatments, sepsis happens regularly among older adults transferred from a hospital to a long-term care facility.

Problems with Diagnoses

Healthcare workers who note sepsis symptoms, such as chills or fever, difficult respiration, pain, or sweaty skin, may mistake these ailments for another illness, such as cancer or pneumonia. This can easily happen in nursing homes that are understaffed.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) website adds that, under global human rights legislation, everyone, including people living in nursing homes, has the right to a high level of care. This care includes protection from mistreatment, neglect, and abuse.

Speak to a Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Now

If your loved one has sepsis, and you believe it’s from neglect, you need to speak to an injury lawyer without delay. Gaining justice and compensation for this type of negligence is something that you need to review with a competent legal advisor. Don’t handle this type of matter yourself. Rely on a Chicago home abuse attorney to guide you in your case.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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