BOSTON -- The most frequent cause of death in non-cardiac intensive care units, sepsis is the presence of an infection that can overwhelm a body's defense mechanisms through inflammation, blood clots and organ damage. It strikes 750,000 American hospital patients annually, killing an estimated 215,000 and costing the health care system $17 billion. Despite aggressive research and technology development, mortality in sepsis decreased only slightly between 1970 and the late 1990s - and is the 11th leading cause of death overall.
Recognizing this deficiency and the opportunity to save lives, physicians at BIDMC have formed a rapid response team - comprised of physicians and nurses from the emergency department, medical intensive care unit and surgical intensive care unit. By tapping into the expertise of each area of the hospital and working together, patients with sepsis are treated quickly and aggressively to combat the disease with the best cutting edge medicine that can be offered. Since the implementation of the team, higher-level care has been delivered earlier and more efficiently in the ED and continues in the intensive care unit.
The team takes advantage of specific strategies for managing sepsis and decreasing the risk of death, says emergency medicine physician Nathan Shapiro, M.D., a leader of the team. A key is the early identification of the problem and the implementation of a comprehensive treatment protocol using advanced monitoring. This is combined with the use of new medication, Activated Protein C, as well as administering steroids to patient who need them.