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The Link Between Spinal Cord Injuries and Sepsis

Following a spinal cord injury (SCI), patients and their families must be vigilant for complications. SCIs can significantly impact mobility and overall health, often requiring ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, assistive devices, and lifestyle adjustments. However, inadequate care by hospital staff can worsen the patient’s condition, potentially leading to severe complications such as sepsis. Effective management and support are critical to improving the quality of life for SCI patients in Savannah and beyond.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition stemming from an excessive immune response to infection, leading to widespread inflammation and potential organ failure. Early symptom recognition, such as elevated fever and rapid heart rate, is essential for timely medical intervention. Savannah’s healthcare system must continually take proactive measures to address sepsis risks, particularly for immobilized SCI patients.

What are the primary causes of sepsis in SCI patients?

Sepsis can occur in SCI patients due to a combination of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Immobility: SCI patients often experience varying degrees of immobility, leading to reduced blood circulation and pooling in certain areas, particularly in the lower extremities. This can lead to problems like blood clots and a lack of good blood circulation in their tissues. This stagnant environment makes it easier for infections to proliferate in the body.
  2. Pressure ulcers (bedsores): Due to their limited mobility and altered sensation, SCI patients are at a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers. These open wounds provide an entry point for bacteria, potentially leading to localized infections that can progress to sepsis if not managed promptly.
  3. Neurogenic bladder dysfunction: Many SCI patients experience neurogenic bladder dysfunction, which can result in incomplete bladder emptying, urinary retention, and the need for catheterization. Catheter use increases the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which, if left untreated, can develop into sepsis.
  4. Respiratory complications: Respiratory muscle weakness and impaired cough reflexes are common in SCI patients, making them vulnerable to pneumonia and other respiratory infections. These infections can spread systemically and contribute to the development of sepsis.
  5. Weakened immune function: SCI can weaken the immune system, diminishing its ability to combat infections, thereby elevating the risk of harmful microorganisms thriving and sepsis development.
  6. Invasive medical procedures: SCI patients often require invasive procedures like surgery, catheterization, and ventilator support. Without proper infection control measures, these interventions may introduce harmful germs into the body, heightening the risk of infections and sepsis.
  7. Delayed symptom recognition: Altered sensory perception and pain medication can delay symptom recognition in SCI patients, making sepsis signs less noticeable in some cases. This can prolong diagnosis and treatment.

Given these factors, healthcare providers must remain vigilant in assessing SCI patients for signs of sepsis. Early recognition, prompt intervention, and preventive measures, such as proper wound care, infection control practices, and catheter management, are essential in mitigating the risk of sepsis in this vulnerable patient population.

Can hospitals be held liable if a SCI patient develops sepsis?

Yes, when an SCI patient develops sepsis, concerns about hospital liability can surface, and a range of legal solutions may be explored with your Savannah injury attorney:

  1. Medical malpractice: Patients may consider legal action to seek compensation for damages in any of the following situations where sepsis is the result:
    1. Improper Infection Control: If a healthcare provider neglects proper infection control during invasive procedures, resulting in sepsis, it may be medical malpractice.
    2. Negligence in Pressure Ulcer Management: Inadequate care causing pressure ulcers in SCI patients, progressing to sepsis, could lead to legal action.
    3. Delayed Diagnosis: Failure to timely recognize sepsis signs in SCI patients, worsening health outcomes, may also justify a medical malpractice claim.
  2. Product liability: In some cases, medical devices or products related to catheterization or other invasive procedures may be faulty or improperly designed, leading to infections and sepsis. This could potentially lead to a product liability lawsuit.

Determining the amount of compensation in a successful medical malpractice case is a multifaceted process. Compensation in these cases typically falls into two main categories: economic and non-economic damages.

  • Economic Damages: These are tangible losses resulting from medical negligence, including medical expenses and lost wages. Compensation covers the costs incurred due to the malpractice, such as surgeries, hospital stays, medications, and ongoing medical care. Suppose the negligence has led to an inability to work or earn a living. In that case, compensation can also include lost wages during recovery or due to a permanent disability caused by the malpractice.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These compensate for intangible suffering and losses. They include pain and suffering compensation, addressing both the physical and emotional distress caused by negligence. Non-economic damages also account for the loss of enjoyment of life when the ability to engage in daily activities is significantly reduced due to malpractice.

Successfully pursuing a medical malpractice claim requires the help of an experienced law firm like Harris Lowry Manton LLP. Our team is proud to support our Savannah community, and we invite you to read our testimonials to see how our dedicated attorneys have helped bring peace of mind to our local neighbors.

Our team understands the intricacies of these cases and is committed to achieving justice for those who have suffered catastrophic injuries or lost loved ones due to medical negligence. If you believe you have a valid medical malpractice claim, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with our team. Call or contact us today in Savannah or Atlanta.


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