New Test Diagnoses Sepsis Faster than Traditional Means

John Fisher
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The entire human body is vulnerable to bacterial infection, even our blood.  An infection of the blood is called sepsis.  Sepsis is common in hospitals and can occur after a patient has had surgery or an ailment.  The symptoms of sepsis are similar to any other infection of the body, but the results of sepsis can be more severe since the entire body is infected.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 250,000 people die every year after developing a sepsis infection.

The onset and spread of sepsis can be very brief, however traditional diagnosis takes time.  The bacteria must be collected, grown, and analyzed for up to two days prior to a conclusive diagnosis of what the infection is can be made.  Due to the length of time it takes to diagnose sepsis, the infection becomes very dangerous before treatment even begins and by that time treatment starts the infection can be strong enough that it will overwhelm the treatment.  The bacteria may even be resistant to the treatments administered.

A new test has been developed that will quickly and accurately detect the bloodstream infections that cause sepsis so a treatment can be decided upon in a timely manner.  This test takes about two hours and compares a patient's blood to other blood samples with known infections.  There are 107 comparisons of blood samples made.  After all the comparisons are made there is a result that determines which infection the patient has.  Once the doctor knows what infection the patient has, he or she can take appropriate action since antibiotic treatments are specific to each particular bacterium.  If the wrong treatment is used it may kill off other bacteria, allowing the bacteria that is causing the sepsis to thrive, worsening the sepsis.

This new test will help prevent the misuse and over prescription of antibiotics because patients will be treated sooner.  More careful decisions about treatment will be made by doctors since they will know what bacteria they are seeking to kill, limiting the number of unnecessary treatments.

 

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