Report: Doctor Discovers Possible Treatment for Sepsis

Nursing home residents who contract blood infections are at dire risk of life-threatening illnesses. One study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General found that septicemia, or sepsis, was by far the most common reason nursing home residents were moved to acute-care hospitals. Sepsis is a complication caused by the body’s life-threatening response to an infection, which can result in tissue damage, organ failure, and even death. The cause of sepsis is infection. The cost of those transfers as of six years ago was $3 billion for Medicare.needle

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that quality care problems at nursing homes – including failures to prevent infections – account for hundreds of thousands of cases annually. The agency asserted some 315,000 hospital admissions annually could be prevented among nursing home residents who receive Medicare and Medicaid if nursing homes provided better quality care. That’s the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing and killing their passengers every single day. Many of those admissions are for sepsis, which most often occurs in people over the age of 65 who have weakened immune systems and chronic medical conditions. Globally, it’s estimated there are 15 million to 19 million cases a year.

Now, a physician in Virginia may have found a way to treat sepsis. His research, published in the journal Chest, reveals remarkable success treating individuals at high risk of sudden death due to sepsis.

Although some are reticent to pronounce a cure until the findings can be more broadly applied and studied, the research is promising.

The first case study was in January 2016, when a 48-year-old woman was brought to the intensive care unit the study author runs in Norfolk, VA. She had severe sepsis, caused by an overwhelming response to an infection. Her lungs were not functioning. Her kidneys had shut down. As the doctor bluntly put it, she was going to die.

In a situation like this, the doctor stated, health care professionals have to start thinking outside the box. He had recently read a study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University that revealed some moderate success with treating people with sepsis with vitamin C given intravenously. The doctor decided it was worth a shot, adding to that a low dose of corticosteroids and thiamine, another vitamin.

Still, he fully expected that when he returned the following morning, she would be dead. But she did not die. In fact, she was by then well on her way to recovery, and she has since made a full recovery.

The physician tried this same method again with two other sepsis patients he encountered. Both times, the outcomes were similarly – and shockingly – positive.

The doctor went on to treat a total of 50 sepsis patients with this treatment. Of those, only four died. And of those four, the doctor stated, the cause of death was not sepsis but other underlying diseases.

In comparison, he looked at 47 patients he had treated prior to starting the Vitamin C treatment. Of those, 19 died in the hospital.

It’s not clear how many of those were victims of nursing home neglect, but it’s safe to say that statistically, it’s likely at least some were.

Typically with a new treatment, the possible treatment would be tested with a placebo or some type of standard treatment. However, the results were so amazing – and the stakes so high – that the doctor decided he could not risk treating patients with anything else. Of the 150 patients total he has treated for sepsis since that first case, only one has died from sepsis.

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Additional Resources:

Doctor Turns Up Possible Treatment For Deadly Sepsis, March 23, 2017, By Richard Harris, NPR

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