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Sepsis: Hospitals Finally Start Confronting A Hidden Killer

Sepsis has evaded hospital attention for far too long. Although it kills more people than breast cancer, strokes and lung cancer combined, hospitals often miss early sepsis warning signs and respond too late to save patients. As a result, sepsis is a leading cause of hospital deaths.

Finally, it seems, hospitals are starting to pay more attention to this problem. New research is making it harder to ignore the need for better procedures - as this knowledge becomes more widespread, Ohio hospitals could be liable for medical malpractice if they fail to improve their levels of care.

Sepsis is an extreme immune response to bacterial infections and other illnesses. In many cases, sepsis causes dangerously low blood pressure and even organ failure. One big problem is that early sepsis symptoms look more like a flu or a cold - this means that doctors and nurses often realize the true ailment after it is too late to effectively treat it.

New York is leading the way on sepsis solutions - it appears likely to become the first in the country to require its hospitals to take steps to monitor patients for sepsis. By aggressively evaluating at-risk patients, hospitals can start treatment much earlier. One study concluded that established early response guidelines can cut 40 percent of sepsis fatalities.

With numbers like these and a growing body of medical knowledge, hospitals cannot stay on the same unresponsive path. Those that do will find themselves dangerously behind the curve - unnecessarily risking patients' lives on a daily basis.

Source: The New York Times, "One Boy's Death Moves State to Action to Prevent Others," Jim Dwyer, Dec. 20, 2012

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