Sepsis, the 10th leading cause of death the United States, sometimes takes patients and doctors by surprise, and so a group of participating hospitals in the New York area are now trying to raise awareness to help identify and treat the condition. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Dr. Scott Weingart is on a life-saving mission at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. His aim is to raise awareness about sepsis, a potentially lethal condition that can be prevented if caught in time. He says patients rarely see it coming.
"Even though they look fine now, they're really a ticking time bomb, ready to get very sick if we ignore them over the course of a few hours," says Weingart.
Sepsis is usually triggered by an infection that quickly spreads to the bloodstream. If not treated right away, the body starts shutting down.
"It's a hard diagnosis to make. We know patients are sick but it's differentiating lines between severe sepsis, where patients are at risk of death, and your everyday flu," says Weingart.
Since sepsis can mask itself as the flu, Weingart is heading up the STOP Sepsis Collaborative, where 56 hospitals in the Metropolitan New York region are participating in improving treatment and outcomes for patients.
Elmhurst Hospital has long been recognized as a leader in identifying sepsis, especially with its nursing staff.
"It's really important for nurses to know the serious signs of sepsis and know how to activate the triage system we have set in place," says Julia LaMonica of Elmhurst Hospital.
People with weak immune systems are particularly at risk for sepsis.
Some warning signs include fever, chills and severe shaking, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and rash.
"I don't want people to hear the word 'sepsis' and get petrified. A lot of folks with just sepsis do just fine," says Weingart. "Now there's awareness and those folks are going to get the treatment they need."
To learn more about the Stop Sepsis Collaborative, visit www.gnyha.com.