Prevention and therapy of blood poisoning
Weak and frail people in particular fall ill with sepsis, colloquially known as blood poisoning, but the life-threatening illness can basically affect everyone. An expert explains how to protect yourself from it.
Blood poisoning is often underestimated
Hardly any other disease in Germany is underestimated as blood poisoning. The disease can be fatal within a few hours and is the third leading cause of death in Germany. Sepsis can affect not only people with a weakened immune system, there is also danger for healthy people. To avoid the often drastic consequences, quick action is required. Professor Dr. also knows that Markus A. Weigand, Medical Director of the Anesthesiological University Clinic in Heidelberg, who explains how to prevent blood poisoning and how to treat the disease.
Immediate intensive medical treatment is necessary
Sepsis mainly affects very weakened or frail people, but nobody is immune from it, according to a message from the Heidelberg University Hospital.
What starts as pneumonia or an infected injury can spread to the entire body.
"Unlike in the case of a heart attack or stroke, the general public still lacks awareness that sepsis is also an emergency - it requires immediate intensive care treatment," explains Professor Dr. Weigand.
"In the case of severe courses, there is only a time window of a few hours before serious organ damage occurs."
The best way to prevent deaths or consequential damage is to prevent, quickly and accurately diagnose, and to start treatment early.
A fifth of the patients do not survive the infection
According to current figures, around 300,000 patients per year develop sepsis in Germany, mostly as a result of serious illnesses such as pneumonia, infected injuries or after major operations.
Excessive inflammatory reactions can then lead to organ failure and circulatory collapse within a very short time. Around a fifth of patients do not survive the out of control infection.
There are two main reasons for this: "Sepsis is often recognized too late and intensive care treatment is initiated," says Weigand.
"In addition, there are only a few medications available so far to stop the inflammation until the pathogen is identified and the appropriate antibiotic has been found."
Hand disinfection and vaccinations prevent it
Prevention is therefore important wherever possible and sensible. In addition to the mandatory hand disinfection, especially when dealing with people with a weakened immune system, certain vaccinations can help risk groups.
"For example, if you get a flu shot, you automatically reduce the risk of bacterial infections of the lungs, which often occur as a result of influenza," explains the sepsis specialist.
The dreaded hospital germs, however, are not the main culprits. The infection usually starts from bacteria that the patient already brings, including more and more often germs that are resistant to several antibiotics.
Thanks to modern microbiological diagnostics, effective drugs can usually be found. However, it can take up to 48 hours to get the results.
New markers should indicate sepsis early
The earlier diagnostics and initial treatment are used, the better. However, early detection is difficult.
Many symptoms of the onset of sepsis - these include fever, confusion, rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure, for example after an injury or surgery, but also with tooth infections - are not very specific.
"You should therefore keep the possibility of sepsis in mind and speak to a doctor sooner rather than later," says Weigand.
The same problem exists with markers in the blood: They do not only show sepsis. In Heidelberg, current research work is underway in this area together with colleagues from Medical Microbiology and Hygiene (Medical Director Prof. Dr. Klaus Heeg).
They are studying a protein that indicates an out of control inflammation very early on. "We hope to bring the therapy significantly forward again and better prevent severe courses." (Ad)