Film Aims to Save Lives of Older Americans Through Early Recognition of Sepsis

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Every year more than 1 million Americans develop sepsis—a life-threatening medical condition that arises when the body initiates a powerful immune response against an infection.
 
Anyone can get sepsis but two-thirds of all cases occur in people over the age of 65. It's the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and older adults, especially those with weakened immune systems, chronic conditions, and those over the age of 85, are more likely to die.

However, the Alliance for Aging Research knows that early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment can save lives. In order to spread the word on the importance of acting quickly, and to teach the signs and symptoms of sepsis so that loved ones will know what to look for, the Alliance released a short "pocket film, "Sepsis in Older Americans: Saving Lives through Early Detection and Treatment."

In this compelling, animated video viewers learn that common symptoms include fever, rapid heart rate, and rapid breathing. The source of the initial infection can also lead to additional symptoms.

Not all infections lead to sepsis, but progression from a localized infection to full-blown sepsis can occur in mere hours. "This rapid onset makes it critical that the symptoms of sepsis are recognized quickly and the patient receives treatment before the infection is out-of-control and it's too late," says Susan Peschin, MHS, CEO of the Alliance. "Not only are older adults more prone to the development of sepsis, but their symptoms may also differ from younger patients, making it more difficult to recognize," says Peschin.

Septic older patients may develop cold, clammy skin instead of a fever. They are also more likely to exhibit sudden mental confusion, delirium, fatigue, malaise, weakness, shortness of breath, poor appetite, chills, dizziness, and low blood pressure.

If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms in the presence of infection, get medical care immediately. Keep in mind that for every hour delay of appropriate treatment, the risk of death increases by 8 percent. Don't wait—go to the hospital immediately.

This film was developed with support from Edwards Lifesciences; written by Martina Cartwright, PhD, RD, president and CEO of Beacon Science Inc; art and animation by Derk Ebeling; and narration by Lee Kanne. Content was developed with guidance from an expert panel included E Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, of Vanderbilt University; Imrana Malik, MD, DABSM, of University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Steven M. Opal, MD, of Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Source: Alliance for Aging Research

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