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Stopping Sepsis in its Tracks

Sepsis is a more common reason for hospital admission than heart attack - and has a higher mortality.

The most common causes of severe sepsis are pneumonia, bowel perforation, urinary infection, and severe skin infections. The most common signs of sepsis are a high fever, violent shivering, fainting, cold and pale hands, rapid breathing, confusion or delirium.

Sepsis is one of our biggest killers. The UK Sepsis Trust states that sepsis claims 37,000 lives every year in the UK and costs the NHS £2.5 billion a year. In comparison, breast cancer claims less than 8,000 lives a year.

The world must face the fact that despite the advances of modern medicine, the fight against infectious diseases and sepsis is far from won. Despite the shocking statistics highlighted above, the public is largely ignorant of the fact that sepsis – also called septicaemia or “blood poisoning” – can be triggered by almost any infectious disease and is responsible for almost 8 million annual deaths worldwide. The annual increase of sepsis cases in industrial nations by 7 – 8% over the last decade has gone largely unnoticed and unremarked.

We need to reduce the catastrophic deaths, life-altering consequences, and high costs of sepsis, but this can only be done by acting quickly to diagnose and treat it in the early stages when symptoms first arise.

Campaigners want to reduce sepsis cases by 20 per cent by 2020 and make the word sepsis a ‘household name’, but in order for us all to achieve this, more has to be done.

Existing research clearly highlights early detection of patient deterioration is vital to improving patient safety and avoiding preventable deaths.

One solution to this is remote monitoring systems that use wireless, sensing and information technologies to continuously collect and analyse patient data, especially from those patients deemed clinically to be most at risk of contracting sepsis. Research shows that subtle variations in the patterns of a patient’s vital signs such as heart rate, respiration rate and temperature indicate the early onset of sepsis and other inflammatory conditions.


These remote monitoring systems show particular promise in addressing issues related to in-hospital patient safety, as well meeting the needs of patients and providers who wish to extend higher acuity care out of the hospital into the home.

Predictive analytics based on the continuous data and changes in the vital sign patters can help meet the challenge of simple, non-specific screening and early warning indicators. The use of smart, sophisticated algorithms is encouraged to support clinical teams in rapid identification and early intervention.

In April this year, Isansys Lifecare Ltd, based in Milton Park, Abingdon, won a SBRI Healthcare development contract to reduce the risk of Sepsis in cancer patients.

The company develops and provides real-time physiological patient monitoring services and systems. It is now working to reconfigure its Patient Status Engine for home use in order to monitor and analyse the subtle variations in vital signs that are the early warning signs of sepsis.

Using multiple data streams from wireless vital sign sensors, the project team is developing unique algorithms that will enable the detection of sepsis much earlier within the 72-hour critical period for chemotherapy patients, facilitating easier, cheaper and less traumatic intervention.

The Patient Status Engine which allows the patients’ care teams to have remote 24/7 access to their vital sign data and early warning indicators, and provides a communication channel to patients for real time feedback and support, will bring peace of mind and allow patients to more confidently engage in their recovery and rehabilitation programmes.

By monitoring 20,000 at-risk chemotherapy patients, Isansys estimates this solution would prevent a large number of deaths and achieve a saving of around £70 million annually for the NHS.

As we saw on World Sepsis Day, more people are taking sepsis seriously. Ambulance services and paramedics are playing a pivotal role in championing prevention of sepsis, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Burton has added new measures to combat the illness by providing each ward with two bright yellow boxes containing everything that needs to be given to patients within an hour of the disease being diagnosed.

There have also been major advances in diagnosing and escalating treatment for patients with sepsis.

But there’s still more to do.

We all need to be aware of sepsis and realise that early detection is the key to saving lives. This is why World Sepsis Day is so important – to get doctors and nurses asking “Is this patient at risk of sepsis? And the general public thinking, ‘Could this be sepsis?’

We now know that if we spot it quickly and get the right treatments in place, lives can be saved.

If it’s spotted, it can be treated and we can beat it.