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Doctors need to treat sepsis with same urgency as a heart attack

Monday 25th July 2016
NICE has told doctors to treat sepsis with the same severity as heart attacks. Image: monkeybusinessimages via iStock
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Patients showing signs of sepsis should be treated with the same urgency as if they were suffering a heart attack, doctors have been warned.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new guidance on the treatment of sepsis, which can prove fatal if left undiagnosed and untreated.

Sepsis occurs when the immune system has an adverse reaction to an infection and begins attacking the rest of the body, including vital organs, making organ failure likely and putting sufferers' lives in danger.

Symptoms of sepsis can include a fever, a fast heartbeat and changes to breathing, and NICE wants doctors to make sure they are able to spot these signs as quickly as possible so that patients can begin accessing the best care for their needs, potentially saving their lives.

With this in mind, the organisation wants doctors to treat patients showing signs of sepsis as seriously and with the same sense of urgency as people suffering from heart attacks, as the condition is just as life-threatening as a cardiac arrest.

In addition, NICE has updated its advice on when antibiotics should be given to sepsis patients, stating that only the most seriously ill individuals should be treated with these medicines to prevent them from becoming resistant to bacteria.

NICE has published this new guidance in light of the fact that statistics show more than one-third (36 per cent) of cases of sepsis recorded in the UK last year were not diagnosed until the disease had reached a dangerously late stage.

Commenting on the updated guidance, Professor Frank Joseph, spokesperson for the Royal College of Physicians, stated: "It is vital for patient care that doctors are able to initiate crucial early treatment for sepsis in order to save lives and improve patient outcomes."

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, added: "We must act decisively to save many of the thousands of lives claimed every year."

Written by James Puckle

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