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The Australian Sepsis Network is a great resource for information.

Sepsis, defined as organ dysfunction due to an infection, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The annual incidence in the adult Australian population treated in an ICU has been estimated at 0.77/1000; corresponding to more than 15700 new cases each year, (1) with an estimated cost per episode of AUD39300.

That’s a lot of money and a lot of lives impacted. For the individual, it is not only the acute treatment episode but the ongoing medical review and getting their life back post-event. From being strong and fit enough to return to work, school etc but also overcoming the psychological issues associated with an extreme illness event.

The issue of severe sepsis is on the rise and approximately 5000 Australians die of sepsis each year. Which is amazing considering there are Sepsis Guidelines to follow.


Early diagnosis is essential but the signs of sepsis are often missed. According to the Australian Sepsis Network “each hours delay in administering antibiotics increases risk of death by close to 8%”.

The signs of infection include:

  • Fever and/or rigors
  • Hypothermia
  • Cough, increased sputum production or dyspnoea
  • Abdominal pain or distension
  • Dysuria, urinary frequency, odour
  • New onset confusion or decreased level of consciousness
  • Recent surgery or invasive procedure with cellulitis or wound infection
  • Line associated redness/swelling/pain
  • Painful swollen joint
  • Meningism

I recommend that you go to their website to review the discussion on the signs of sepsis in an adult and the signs that the patient may be going into septic shock.

The Australian Sepsis Network has also created a Could this be Sepsis App that you can download to check signs and symptoms – which is a great asset.

As I stated before Sepsis is on the rise and, though we have clinical Sepsis guidelines to follow, it would appear that compliance is low. When undertaking an assessment if there are signs of infection then keep sepsis at the back of your mind – quick initiation of treatment could be the difference between life and death.

There is a great education session on Sepsis coming up in the CPD webinar library on the Nursing CPD Institute if you are a member.