- Doctors say new approach needed to way hospitals detect and treat sepsis
- It kills 37,000 every year, more than breast and bowel cancer combined
- Estimated 12,500 lives may be saved each year if symptoms spotted earlier
- Experts have called for new procedures to help doctors make the diagnosis
A radical overhaul is needed to the way hospitals detect and treat sepsis, a group of leading doctors has warned.
The illness, known as the ‘silent killer’, affects 100,000 people every year in Britain and kills 37,000 – considerably more than breast and bowel cancer combined.
But despite the fatal consequences, it often goes undetected until it is far too late for treatment to be effective.
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Professor Jonathan Cohen, of Brighton and Sussex Medical School (pictured), led a team of experts analysing the current approach to the way hospitals detect and treat sepsis. The group warned an overhaul was needed
Writing in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, an international group of doctors today calls for medics to be made more aware of the condition’s early signs.
Professor Jonathan Cohen, who led a team of experts analysing the current approach, said: ‘Sepsis is both one of the best known yet most poorly understood medical disorders, and one of the most challenging medical conditions in routine clinical practice.
‘Researchers, clinicians, and policy makers need to radically rethink the way we are researching and diagnosing this devastating condition.’
Sepsis occurs when a bacterial infection triggers a violent response from the immune system. The body begins attacking its own organs which, if not recognised quickly, can lead to rapid failure of the heart, liver, lungs or kidneys.
Early symptoms include fever, inflammation and blood clotting – but doctors often miss these first crucial clues.
Call for change: It is estimated 12,500 lives could be saved each year if symptoms of sepsis were spotted earlier. Experts have now said a radical overhaul is needed to the way hospitals detect and treat sepsis
An estimated 12,500 lives could be saved each year if symptoms were spotted earlier, according to research by the Health Service Ombudsman in 2013. If identified soon enough, the condition can be treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluid.
Sepsis is both one of the best known yet most poorly understood medical disorders
Professor Jonathan Cohen
Yet Professor Cohen, of Brighton and Sussex Medical School, added that ‘research into new treatments seems to have stalled’.
The authors called for new procedures to help doctors recognise sepsis at an early stage. They wrote: ‘Development of a simple bedside algorithm to help the early clinical recognition of the disorder will improve survival.’
They also warned that antibiotic resistance is increasing the urgency of the situation.
Campaigners backed their calls for better diagnosis. Ron Daniels, of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: ‘Without a culture of awareness among health professionals, opportunities to diagnose and treat will continue to be missed.’
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘We are constantly working to improve care standards, and have recently started to offer incentives to hospitals that screen and treat patients who display symptoms for sepsis as quickly as possible.’