A visit to the hospital can be traumatizing. Even more traumatizing can be when the team of doctors and nurses are not coordinated in the recognition, diagnosis and management of a critical illness such as sepsis.

Sepsis is a life threatening response of the body to an overwhelming infection. Ironically, the body’s own reaction goes into “overdrive” causing inflammation and leading to fever, shaking chills, confusion, elevated heart rate and lower blood pressure. Sepsis occurs most often to patients in the hospital who are on the ventilator with multiple catheters with a compromised immune system.

Each year over 750,000 cases of sepsis occur with nearly 210,000 fatalities- which are more than lung and breast cancer combined. According to a study from Emory University, the incidence of sepsis in and out of hospitals has increased by nearly 9% a year over the past two decades.

The interesting part about sepsis is that early diagnosis and prompt management can do more to save lives than new medicines or advanced technology. Hospitals in Memphis and through out the country have implemented MRT, medical response teams, to address patients with sepsis. An MRT is a team consisting of a doctor, nurse and a therapist who assess and manage critically ill patients within minutes – something which use to take several hours. The MED alone estimates nearly a 100 lives saves from medical response teams.

This week over 120 doctors, nurses, pharmacist, respiratory therapist, quality directors and even CEOs from all the area hospitals are gathering under the umbrella of the Memphis Quality Initiative for a workshop on how to improve care for sepsis patients. The discussion will focus on better identification and management of patients with sepsis and developing measurement that can be tracked city-wide.

While in the hospital for the treatment of infections, Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, and Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman, died of sepsis Without doubt sepsis is under recognized and warrants attention by the hospitals and health care workers.