Post-Sepsis Syndrome

What is Post-Sepsis Syndrome?

Post-Sepsis Syndrome (PSS) is a condition that affects up to 50% of sepsis survivors. And can last for years. It includes physical and/or psychological long-term effects. The following is a list of the most common symptoms. Please remember that some people have only 1 or 2 of these symptoms and some will have many.

  • Difficulty with memory or concentration. Decrease in cognitive and mental/emotional functioning.
  • Difficulty sleeping, either difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep This can include nightmares and/or hallucinations.
  • Depression and/or anxiety, loss of self esteem, irritability.
  • Disabling muscle or joint pain.
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue.
  • Exhaustion: mental and physical. Decreased stamina in body function and mind.
  • Difficulty swallowing (will need to see a speech therapist and otolaryngologist and neurologist).
  • Decreased immune function. Increased susceptibility to another infection and increased risk of sepsis for at least one year.
  • Disability secondary to sepsis due to amputations or long terms complications of organ damage.
  • Difficulty completing routine daily tasks around the house. Bathing, walking, preparing food, etc.
  • Setbacks and longer term difficulties in controlling and stabilizing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and liver disease.
What is Post-Sepsis Syndrome?

Because the risk of sepsis from an infection is higher than if you never had sepsis, it is critical to address health concerns and be extremely aware and proactive for prevention and early detection of infection and sepsis. I will not hesitate to send you to the hospital if you show signs of infection or sepsis. And I will help you and your loved ones become aware of the earliest signs of infection and/or sepsis and encourage you to err on the side of caution and get treated for an infection or evaluated at an ER for sepsis at the first sign, even if it shows to be a false alarm. Because of the speed with which sepsis can take off and risk life, it only makes sense to err on the side of caution. The best way to avoid additional infection and/or a bout of sepsis is to optimize your health and functioning.

Sepsis symptoms

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. In other words, it’s your body’s overactive and toxic response to an infection.  It is NOT the infection itself, but it is the body’s reaction/overreaction to an infection. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.

It is much bigger than people realize.  Sepsis is a global health crisis. In the US, about 1.7 million people get sepsis each year.  About 270,000 people die each year in the US because of sepsis. It affects people of all ages and races and ethnicities.

Many surviving patients suffer from the consequences of sepsis for the rest of their lives.  This is part of the “Post-Sepsis Syndrome”.  When people leave a hospital and survived, that is often the end of their care.  That is where a doctor like me can be of help.  I understand sepsis, have a loved one who survived sepsis but had post sepsis syndrome, and now have treated a good number of people with the consequences of sepsis to regain as much function and health as possible.

A key is to survive sepsis is to know the signs and get to an Emergency Room ASAP.  We all get infections from time to time and they do not result in sepsis.  Awareness of when that infection is setting off sepsis is critical. Every hour counts.

Remember ANYONE can get sepsis.

Because sepsis is an illness that is in response to infection, ANY bacteria, virus or parasite can set off the reaction that leads to life-threatening sepsis.  From influenza viruses to viral meningitis to Sars-CoV-2 (Covid-19)) for viruses.  For bacteria, it can be from bacteria causing a urinary tract infection, or bacterial pneumonia, or an infection after surgery or Toxic Shock Syndrome.  Parasites, like worms, or giardia can also cause sepsis. And parasites’ like those that cause Dengue fever can cause sepsis.

How will Dr. Lara Litov work with you if you are coming in with post-sepsis syndrome?

I have two primary goals.

  1. To help with functional recovery/healing from the consequences of having sepsis.
  2. To decrease risk of recurring infection and sepsis.

How long will the treatment take?

  • I conduct a thorough evaluation of the present symptoms and the history of a patients with sepsis. Also, a medical understanding of the health challenges of the patient prior to sepsis and after sepsis.
  • Compile a list of all providers involved in a patients care and coordinating appropriate care with their primary care provider and relevant specialists including infectious disease, nephrology, gastroenterology/hepatology, cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, hematologist, endocrinologist, pulmonologist and psychiatrist if needed.
  • We will then begin to work on the symptoms that you are presently struggling with. And make an individualized treatment plan to regain as optimal health and functioning as you can. This is a longer term process. I utilize an integrative, functional and naturopathic model. As is my personal experience with a life threatening illness, conventional medicine is critical to saving a life. Naturopathic medicine and other medicines and treatments can be critical to getting ones optimal health back. I believe all of it is important and will utilize whichever treatments are optimal.
  • We will together review medications prior to admittance to hospital, and what medications added during hospital stay, and then will evaluate those on an ongoing basis to determine if medication adjustments are in order. This is one area that often falls through the cracks in post sepsis care. We will coordinate with other providers and ensure you are on the correct medications for the moment and at the correct dosage. For instance, blood pressure medications may be change or added in the hospital, but blood pressure is an unstable thing during sepsis. Post sepsis may need a different blood pressure regimen.
  • One critical thing that we will deal with is prevention of recurrence of infection and hospitalization. 25% of people who survive sepsis get readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. 40% get readmitted within 90 days. And have a higher risk of infection
  • Because of the increased risk of infection and re-admittance to the hospital, the first few follow-up visits are not spaced far apart. Often every 2 weeks for a month or so and then every 3-4 weeks for a few months, depending upon each individual. It is ideal to follow up regularly to get past that first 90 days.
  • I work with you as a person who has been through a difficult and often traumatic time. I honor and work with helping the mind, body and spirit heal. And as people get stronger and get past those critical milestones, I see peoples spirits improve as well.