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Quick Detection of the No. 1 Patient Killer

Could death from sepsis one day be a thing of the past? This systemic inflammation, most often caused by bacteria, is the No. 1 cause of death in hospitals and strikes nearly a million Americans a year. NIH Gov

Common symptoms include fever, chills, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, rashes, confusion and disorientation. “Many of these symptoms, such as fever and difficulty breathing, mimic other conditions, making sepsis hard to diagnose in its early stages.” NIH Gov

The difficulty in diagnosing sepsis quickly is one of the greatest challenges for hospitals. Detected early, and the inflammation can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Discovery too late can be life-threatening for a patient who arrived in the hospital for an ordinary procedure. Currently doctors monitor patients exhibiting sepsis symptoms through blood or urine analysis but these tests can take precious time to analyze and may not yield enough specificity for doctors to know if they are definitely dealing with the infection. AACC

A solution for this agonizing wait time may be on the horizon. A new system is in development which can cut the wait time on analysis to a mere 10 to 11 hours. In this time, a printed sensor can specifically identify the species of bacteria the patient is fighting (by comparison, ordinary tests take 12 hours just to confirm the presence of bacteria). The analysis itself doesn’t require lab workers and the sensor can be printed at negligible cost to the hospital. A win for health care providers, and a win for their patients.

Until this or other more efficient systems become a reality, patients and their family members should be alert to the signs of sepsis and ensure hospital staff are monitoring them as well.

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