Alarming rise in Sepsis deaths: Docs

Shubha was admitted to a corporate hospital in Chennai as her platelet count had fallen sharply because of a genetic condition.

All this mother-of-two needed was a simple transfusion of plasma and platelets. Once her platelet count goes up to a healthy level, she could go home, her doctors said.

However, Shubha never went home. She died of sepsis in the hospital’s ICU, with a healthy platelet count.

“Sepsis is among the most common causes of death in the ICU. If the patient stays in the ICU for more than 10-15 days, no matter how clean the hospital is, it is difficult to prevent sepsis,” admits the intensivist who treated Shubha.

Around 750,000 cases of sepsis are reported every year in India and the emergence of drug resistant bacteria because of antibiotic abuse only makes the situation more alarming.

The mortality rate in ICU patients is 12 per cent, against 59.26 per cent in patients with sepsis, according to national studies.

Sepsis, known in layman’s terms as ‘blood poisoning’, is usually put down as the cause of death when a patient is lost despite successful surgery or treatment.

“Sepsis is the body’s adverse reaction to an infection and causes the lungs and the kidneys to shut down.

When patients in a hospital ICU develop sepsis, it is usually a nosocomial infection that triggers it. The bacteria in hospitals, having bred in an environment of different antibiotics, are usually multi drug resistant,” explains gastric surgeon Dr J.S. Rajkumar.

National figures show that cases of sepsis have more than doubled since 1980 with an increase in the number of surgeries and the number of patients with low immunity or medically suppressed immunity.

“Once the body goes into septic shock, there are no specific anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent the progression of the condition to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS),” says intensivist Dr Dilip R. Karnad.

The only solution is to educate both patients and physicians about the horrors of indiscriminate antibiotic use.

“Doctors sometimes prescribe the strongest antibiotic available to treat a simple infection, hoping for quick results.

These short cuts are expensive and dangerous. Hospitals should enforce strict antibiotic policies and not even the mildest antibiotics should be available over the counter,” stresses Dr Rajkumar.

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