Medical Negligence

What is Sepsis Misdiagnosis?

Hospital negligence claim
9 min read time

Each year, thousands of people suffer from sepsis that either goes undetected or that is entirely misdiagnosed. Sadly, approximately four out of every 10 people who get the illness will die, especially if it’s not recognised early and treated promptly.

In this article, we discuss the most common sepsis symptoms and the indicators that your medical team should be looking out for. We’ll also explain how to make a sepsis claim and the amount of compensation that can be awarded.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis, also known as septicaemia, is a potentially life-threatening case of blood poisoning which occurs when the body’s response to an infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs.

The body’s immune system goes into overdrive, leading to a series of reactions that causes widespread inflammation, blood clotting, organ failure, and even death.

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What are the Most Common Signs of Sepsis?

As a fast-moving illness, the symptoms of sepsis will appear rapidly but there are several tell-tale signs, including:

  • Breathlessness
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhoea
  • Extreme chills and shivering
  • Extreme muscle pain
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling dizzy and faint
  • Fever
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Reduced urine production
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Mottled or discoloured skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

 What Sepsis Symptoms Should a Doctor Be Looking For?

When doctors are diagnosing sepsis, there are three main stages of the infection to look out for:

‘Sepsis’ Symptoms

If you display two of the symptoms below, a doctor may diagnose you as having sepsis:

  • A fever above 101ºF or a temperature below 96.8ºF
  • A heart rate of more than 90 beats per minute
  • An increased breathing rate of more than 20 breaths per minute
  • A suspected or confirmed infection

‘Severe Sepsis’ Symptoms

Severe Sepsis occurs when there is organ failure and you may be diagnosed with it if you have one or more of the following signs:

  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Breathing problems
  • Changes in mental ability
  • Extreme chills because of a fall in body temperature
  • Extreme weakness
  • Low platelet count
  • Patches of discoloured skin
  • Severe weakness
  • Unconsciousness

‘Septic Shock’ Symptoms

When a person has a very low blood pressure combined with two or more of the above symptoms, this will usually result in Septic Shock.

Treating sepsis and/or septic shock with antibiotics and fluids in its early stages will give patients a far better chance to survive and recover, preventing organ and limb damage or death.

What Causes Sepsis?

Sepsis usually occurs as a result of an infection, commonly in the lungs, abdomen, urinary tract or pelvis.

Sepsis can also be caused by:

  • Appendicitis
  • Cellulitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Flu
  • Gallbladder infection
  • Meningitis
  • Peritonitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Post-surgical infection
  • Urinary tract infection

Who is Most at Risk of Sepsis?

As with most infections, some people are much more likely to suffer from sepsis.

Doctors and health professionals should be extra careful when they see any warning signs for sepsis or septic shock in the following patients:

  • Babies, toddlers, and young children
  • Elderly adults
  • People with chronic illnesses such as Aids, kidney disease, or diabetes
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system
  • People who are recently recovering from an infection
  • Patients who sustained recent physical bodily trauma
  • Patients recovering from surgery or chemotherapy

How Do I Know I’ve Been Misdiagnosed?

Sepsis is often misdiagnosed because the sufferer is not thoroughly assessed or the symptoms are misinterpreted.

Unfortunately, this can happen because doctors and staff working in the NHS are sometimes overworked and stressed. Sadly, this can lead to things being missed or fatal errors.

Common examples of sepsis misdiagnosis include:

  • Failure or delay to administer empiric intravenous antibiotics
  • Clinical dehydration and shock not treated appropriately
  • Blood pressure not obtained promptly
  • Serum lactate and full blood count are not measured
  • Symptoms are missed or misinterpreted
  • Delay in referring you to a specialist
  • Doctor misinterprets test result
  • Delay in delivering high flow oxygen
  • Urine output measured inaccurately
  • Blood cultures not taken

What is the Impact of a Delayed or Incorrect Diagnosis?

Even when it is treated promptly, sepsis can result in life-changing consequences to the sufferer’s health. A delayed reaction or complete failure to provide sepsis treatment often leaves the victim needing to make major lifestyle adaptations to cope with the long-term implications.

If left undiagnosed, sepsis can lead to tissue death or gangrene and may result in an amputation. This could mean losing fingers or toes or, to save their life, larger limbs may need to be removed. Sadly, this surgery often has a significant impact on the patient’s future lifestyle.

If it is not identified quickly, sepsis can also cause serious organ failure. If this were to happen to the kidneys, you would require lifelong dialysis treatment.

Can I Make a Sepsis Negligence Claim?

In most cases, the signs of sepsis and blood infections are noticed quickly and suitable treatment is provided. However, if an undiagnosed case of sepsis or delayed diagnosis significantly impacts a person’s life or leads to a fatality, UK law allows appropriate legal action to be taken.

For anyone affected in this way, speaking to a sepsis medical negligence claims specialist as soon as possible is essential. They can immediately jump into action to determine the strength of your case, who the claim should be brought against, and your chances of success.

How Will a Sepsis Claim Help Other People?

Sepsis always has a devastating and long-lasting impact on the sufferer and their loved ones. Sometimes it can prove fatal.

A delayed sepsis diagnosis or misdiagnosis is a serious form of medical negligence. Taking appropriate legal action may allow those responsible to learn lessons and prevent it from happening to anyone else in future.

The desire to obtain answers is one of the main reasons why people pursue sepsis negligence claims, especially if a death has occurred which could have been prevented.

By finding out how it happened, who is responsible and why; you could help to educate those who made the mistake to ensure it is never repeated.

 What Can I Claim as a Victim of Sepsis Misdiagnosis?

The amount of compensation you may be entitled to will vary from case to case and depends on your circumstances.

Usually, it will reflect the seriousness of the sepsis misdiagnosis or medical error and its impact on your overall health and quality of life. Typically, claims can be made for one or more of the following:

  • General damages – injuries, pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses – private treatment, therapy, counselling etc
  • Cost of future professional care – for cases of long term/permanent disability
  • Travel expenses incurred
  • Loss of past or future earnings
  • Bereavement payments
  • Child dependency payments
  • Family dependency payments
  • Funeral costs

What is the Sepsis Claims Process?

When you appoint a specialist sepsis solicitor, they will be on hand to provide legal advice and guidance when you or your loved ones need it most.

By working hand in hand with independent medical professionals, your solicitor will fully understand the impact and severity of the misdiagnosis or late diagnosis had on the victim’s health. To provide complete clarity, they will contact everyone involved in your treatment to gather the evidence needed to represent you and negotiate a settlement.

Here at Hudgells, we promise to help you through the process every step of the way, writing to you regularly with any updates or information.

Is There a Time Limit for Making a Sepsis Claim?

In most cases, you have three years from the day the sepsis misdiagnosis becomes apparent or the time you first became aware of it to begin legal action. This means the three-year timer does not start from the day of the actual treatment.

The reason for this is because people often do not fully appreciate the negative results of a delayed or misdiagnosis until they start to show, which may be a while after surgery or treatment.

A claim can be made on behalf of a child at any time until the date of their 18th birthday. After this, the three-year limit to make their own sepsis claim starts on the day of their 18th birthday.

If you’re claiming on behalf of someone without any mental capacity, no time limits apply.

Can a Sepsis Claim be Made After Death?

Should a sepsis misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis lead to a fatality, the right to bring a claim does continue for three years from the date of death.

Claims on behalf of a loved one who died as a result of sepsis must be made three years from the date of their negligent treatment or the date of their death – so it is essential to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.

For sensitive cases such as these, our experts will work quickly to establish whether a claim could succeed and do everything they can to deliver clarity and ensure justice is done. If the victim passes away before a decision is reached, we work closely with their family or loved ones to make sure the claim is brought to a conclusion in their absence.

Why Should I Use Hudgell Solicitors?

Hudgell Solicitors boasts years of sepsis claims experience and has successfully secured substantial settlements for the emotional, physical, and financial loss which should never have been caused in the first place.

Our dedicated team understands how to deal with highly sensitive cases and our approach is focused on you and your family. As part of our company values, we promise to see the person and not just the claim.

Get in touch and we’ll schedule our first meeting within 24 hours, assigning a dedicated sepsis claims specialist to your case. We’ll conduct a free and confidential consultation where we can listen to your circumstances and ask questions about the treatment you received.

If we believe you have grounds to successfully claim compensation, we’ll work with you to get the result you deserve.

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What is Sepsis Misdiagnosis?

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