Source: Huffington Post
Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, star of The Patty Duke Show and the Broadway play and film The Miracle Worker, died of sepsis from a ruptured intestine last week. The announcement of her cause of death is a major milestone for the sepsis awareness movement, according to Thomas Heymann, executive director of SepsisAlliance.org.
“The fact that they said Patty Duke’s cause of death was sepsis is relatively new,” Heymann said. “It very often would have been left as a complication of surgery or an infection. But it’s not a complication, it’s sepsis” — a reaction to infection that leads to systemic organ failure.
Sepsis kills more than 258,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most people can fully recover, some survivors are left with permanent organ damage or missing limbs due to amputation. Despite these alarming facts, only 47 percent of Americans polled were aware of sepsis. Meanwhile, 86 percent knew about Ebola and 76 percent knew about malaria — diseases that are much rarer in the United States.
What’s more, sepsis is often thought of as a hospital-acquired infection, making doctors more likely to look for it among hospital patients and the chronically ill. But about two-thirds of cases are first documented by the emergency department, which means that they were acquired outside of a hospital setting, explains Dr. Craig Coopersmith, professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine and the former president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
A 2006 study revealed that treatment within the first hour of a documented drop in blood pressure, a tell-tale sign of sepsis, was linked to an 80 percent survival rate. Because of this, if you suspect sepsis — perhaps after a surgery, or because of a prior infection or wound that isn’t healing well — patients are advised to say, “I am concerned about sepsis,” in order to get the most timely treatment possible. Your life could depend on it, says Coopersmith.
To avoid deaths by sepsis, Coopersmith offers with two basic rules for physicians: If a patient has an infection, check for organ dysfunction. And if they have an organ dysfunction, check for sepsis.