Failure to Diagnose Sepsis: The Mortality of Severe Burns


Severe burns are one of the most devastating things anyone can ever experience. Most of us can only imagine the terrible things burn victims must endure. We’ve all burned ourselves just a little on a hot pan or stove, and we know how impossible it is to soothe the pain when this happens. This terrible pain is what most of us think of and fear when it comes to burns, but pain is nowhere near the most serious health emergency when a person suffers severe burns.

Sepsis has long been the primary enemy of burn victims, especially those who suffer serious burns on large percentages of the body. Sepsis is responsible for thirty percent of all deaths of people with severe burns, in part because the symptoms of sepsis can be difficult to recognize because they can be similar to the effects serious burns have on the human body.

These challenges diagnosing burn victims who suffer from sepsis are difficult to overcome, but it is absolutely crucial that diagnosis occur swiftly. It is estimated that each hour of delay in diagnosis increases the mortality rate by ten percent. The common tools to diagnose sepsis are woefully lacking, including a blood test than can take up to a day to come back. Twenty-four hours is long enough to all but guarantee death.

Thankfully, a new potential means of diagnosis has been discovered by doctors in Massachusetts. This new method involves a test for neutrophils. Neutrophils:

  • Are the name given to the white blood cells that help us fight off infection
  • Are present in numbers of at least 25 million in healthy people
  • Are mobile, fast, and follow patterns when they are doing their job effectively

This new test looks at both the number and behavior of these white blood cells. If the number is below 25 million or if the neutrophils are behaving erratically, the doctor can begin to treat for sepsis hours earlier than they could under the old blood test system. These extra hours of treatment could drastically improve the mortality rate for those suffering from sepsis.

As with any new test, it will take time for this study to be verified and come into common practice. This is a terrible tragedy, as sepsis already goes undiagnosed for far too long in far too many cases. If you or a loved one suffered or died because doctors failed to diagnose sepsis, please contact an attorney to help you hold the negligent responsible for your suffering.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.