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Medical Malpractice AttorneyAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), infectious and parasitic diseases send roughly 3.4 million people to the emergency room yearly. There they receive antibiotics and other treatments. Sometimes it’s the body’s own immune response that causes the problems.

This is sepsis. Wrongly thought to be an infection, sepsis is a dangerous medical condition where the body fights an infection too aggressively. A lot could go wrong, and many patients will progress to septic shock—a life-threatening condition.

Fortunately, doctors can save most patients if they properly diagnose sepsis and respond with appropriate treatment. When doctors are negligent, however, patients do not get the treatment they need, and doctors commit malpractice. Our California medical malpractice attorneys can help anyone injured by failing to diagnose sepsis pursue a legal claim.

What Is Sepsis?

The CDC defines sepsis as an extreme response to an infection by the immune system. It is not an infection but instead a response to the disease. In short, the condition sets off a chain reaction in the body. Patients can enter a hyperinflammatory state which does more than fight the infection—it injures healthy tissue.

Sepsis is typically triggered by bacterial infections, though viruses can also lead to sepsis.

What Are The Signs Of Sepsis?

You might have sepsis if you have an infection and:

  • Confusion
  • Rapid rise in heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Clamminess
  • Shortness of breath
  • Intense pain

Of course, some of these conditions are the typical result of any infection, which does not lead to sepsis. Nevertheless, go to the hospital if you feel out of the ordinary.

How Do Doctors Respond To Sepsis?

Doctors typically respond by giving you antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection that has triggered sepsis. Fighting the bacterial infection can reduce the odds of a hyperinflammatory response.

Many patients are admitted to intensive care for close monitoring. You will probably receive supportive care, such as supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids, and even dialysis if your kidneys have been affected. The other focus will be maintaining blood flow to your organs to prevent tissue death.

Why Do Doctors Misdiagnose Sepsis?

Sepsis can be easily misdiagnosed. Many times doctors will assume it is one infection and miss all of the standard warning signs for sepsis. 

Lack Of Diligence

Some symptoms of sepsis are no different than the response to any infection. Remember, sepsis is the body’s overreaction to an infection. But most people will develop a fever and chills when they have an infection. A doctor could carelessly send you home with an order to take a few aspirins and check back in after a day or two, but by that time, your condition might be much worse.

Poor Communication

A doctor might not know you have an infection because your patient record is missing information. Consequently, the doctor doesn’t even think sepsis is a possibility.


An emergency room might have insufficient staff on hand, so you get lost in the shuffle. As a result, your condition worsens quickly.

Lack of Training/Knowledge

Many doctors immediately give a broad-spectrum antibiotic before identifying the infection you have. A doctor might not know how to do this because of a lack of familiarity with sepsis. Consequently, patients suffer.

Misdiagnosis is deadly. Aggressive, early treatment is necessary to give patients the best odds of survival. When a diagnosis is delayed, your condition will worsen.

What Is Septic Shock?

If your blood pressure drops very low, you can have septic shock. Eventually, organs shut down entirely, and patients can die. You can avoid septic shock if you receive appropriate, early care.

How Deadly Is Septic Shock?

Very deadly. According to one study, roughly 30-50% of those with septic shock will die. Ideally, a doctor will diagnose and respond to sepsis as soon as possible. But medical negligence often leads to septic shock and tragic results.

What Complications Does Sepsis Cause?

Even if you survive sepsis, you could face many health complications. For example, some organ tissue might have died (necrotized) during your struggle with sepsis. A doctor will need to perform surgery to remove the dead tissue. This is both expensive and physically grueling.

You might also suffer from post-sepsis syndrome, which can include:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Skin rash
  • Breathing problems
  • Extreme joint or muscle pain
  • Limb swelling
  • Cognitive decline
  • Memory loss
  • Liver or kidney problems

There’s also a real possibility you could end up back in the hospital with a repeat infection or other problems. You might require dialysis or even rehabilitation so you can try to regain functioning. At a minimum, the post-sepsis syndrome will reduce your quality of life considerably.

Can I Sue A Doctor For Failing To Diagnose Sepsis?

Possibly. The primary question is whether the doctor should have made the diagnosis based on what they knew at the time. For example, you might have arrived at the emergency room with an elevated heart rate and disorientation. If the doctor knew you had an infection, he should have considered sepsis a possible diagnosis. Even if your infection wasn’t diagnosed yet, a careful doctor would have investigated further, possibly ordering blood work.

The law doesn’t require that doctors be 100% correct in their diagnosis. But it does require that they use the care we expect of other doctors. When they fail, they have committed medical malpractice.

How Do I Know If A Doctor Committed Malpractice?

Ultimately, this is a legal question. As experienced California medical malpractice attorneys, we can work with experienced doctors who serve as expert witnesses. They can testify how a reasonably prudent doctor should have acted while treating you.

Our California Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Spring Into Action

Sepsis is survivable—but patients need medical providers who follow the correct standard of care and act with diligence. If you struggled with sepsis or lost a loved one, contact us today online or by calling 888-848-5084. Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, PC can review your case and determine whether you can bring a medical malpractice claim against a doctor or other provider.