The parents of an 11 year-old boy who died of septic shock after getting a mild cut on his arm want hospitals to be more aware of the risk of sepsis and for parents to know warning signs.
11-year-old Rory Staunton of Queens, New York, suffered a small cut on his arm during basketball practice in March and died four days later of septic shock --after being sent home from the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center and mistakenly diagnosed with the flu.
Rory had many signs of sepsis that both his doctor and the emergency room doctors ignored, such as a high fever, leg pain, vomiting and skin that was blotchy when pressed.
The case highlights the importance of being proactive as parents and following our instincts when things don't feel right. One way to do this is by educating ourselves on the signs of sepsis, a leading cause of death in the U.S.
The STOP Sepsis Collaborative, a collaboration of 56 hospitals in the New York area reports:
Sepsis is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. With an estimated 750,000 cases annually and a nearly 40 percent mortality rate, severe sepsis is also one of the most common causes, and possibly the number one cause, of death in hospital critical care units.
Ironically, the hospital that ignored Rory's symptoms is one of those affiliated with the STOP Sepsis Collaborative.
Doctors caution that parents should not become overly concerned if children are diagnosed with sepsis, which is fairly common and benign in its mild stages. Sepsis is much easier to treat in early stages, which is one reason it's so important to recognize the signs.
Minnesota's Mayo Clinic in Rochester list these symptoms of sepsis:
To be diagnosed with sepsis, you must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms:
- Fever above 101.3 F (38.5 C) or below 95 F (35 C)
- Heart rate higher than 90 beats a minute
- Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths a minute
- Probable or confirmed infection
Much more dangerous is severe sepsis, which includes the following symptoms:
Your diagnosis will be upgraded to severe sepsis if you also exhibit at least one of the following signs and symptoms, which indicate organ dysfunction:
- Areas of mottled skin
- Significantly decreased urine output
- Abrupt change in mental status
- Decrease in platelet count
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal heart function
Most dangerous of all is septic shock:
To be diagnosed with septic shock, you must have the signs and symptoms of severe sepsis — plus extremely low blood pressure.
The Mayo points out that sepsis most often occurs in patients who are hospitalized. Patients in ICU are especially vulnerable.
The Mayo cautions:
If you get an infection, or if you develop signs and symptoms of sepsis after surgery, hospitalization or an infection, seek medical care immediately.
For more information about sepsis and its symptoms, see: