Gill Edwards, Partner in our Medical Negligence team, discusses the news of a blood test which can rapidly detect sepsis in patients; a condition which is often difficult to diagnose and can be fatal.
The blood test on trial is a non-invasive pin-prick test which identifies high levels of a protein in the blood, produced when the immune system goes into overdrive to deal with infection. The inexpensive test can identify sepsis in just 45 minutes and could prove lifesaving for patients displaying the potential symptoms.
The trial is taking place over the course of a year at St Thomas’ Hospital intensive care unit and the reliability of the test will be compared with other blood tests already in use.
It is hoped that the test will eventually be used to screen patients for sepsis when they attend A&E or if they deteriorate whilst in hospital, meaning they can be diagnosed and treated quicker before severe complications arise.
The new test has been welcomed by the UK Sepsis Trust and clinicians in critical care. Sepsis is the number one cause of death in hospitals and can arise from any infection. According to the UK Sepsis Trust, there are 48,000 deaths in the UK every year and nearly 80,000 people who suffer life-changing injuries as a result of sepsis.
Anything tangible which might save lives and improve outcomes for patients who survive is a positive step forward. It is such a devastating condition and sadly we see the worst outcomes in the work that we do as medical negligence solicitors. In some cases, this has involved the death of the patient, and we are helping the dependants of the deceased to obtain financial security and to ensure there is accountability. In other cases, patients have been left with severe injuries including amputation and we are helping them to access care, therapy and equipment to improve their quality of life and independence.
Without wishing to throw cold water over any attempt to improve the situation, there still needs to be a better appreciation of the signs and symptoms of sepsis amongst clinical staff in emergency departments and wards so that they are aware of when to use the test.
The UK Sepsis Trust developed the Sepsis Six pathway care bundle which provides a set of steps for medical professionals to take within one hour of diagnosis to help with resuscitation of the patient, but ongoing training is needed to ensure that nursing and medical staff recognise the signs of it developing in the first place.