02 Jan SEPSIS – is it a poisonous subject?
It’s One of the Big Killers, but SEPSIS is Little Understood
It used to be called ‘blood poisoning’ or ‘septicaemia’, and people always used to respond in the same way to being told that someone had died of it; a look that pretended knowledge followed by a gently nodding head, and a softly exclaimed, “Ahh – I see.”
This condition is now widely referred to as Sepsis. But it still kills. And it is still poorly understood by the general public.
Why is it important in dentistry?
Patients who complain of swellings and tooth-ache are often diagnosed with an abscess – a localised infection, located in the root of a damaged tooth, or a gum. The problem is, if left untreated, an abscess can easily develop into a secondary infection that is systemic. If this overwhelms the body’s immune system it will result in sepsis – a reaction in which the body attacks its own organs and tissues.
In the early stages, while an infection is still a localised abscess, it is easily treated with antibiotics that a dentist can prescribe. But should that secondary infection develop, things can move very quickly. Hospitalisation and intravenous antibiotics are the defence against a lethal problem.
Comprised Immune Systems
Normally, an abscess won’t progress to sepsis. However, when treating patients with a compromised immune system, the risk of sepsis increases rapidly.
Patients with conditions such as diabetes, or who are intravenous drug abusers are very susceptible to secondary infections.
Why is this Important to me?
One of the things we’ve been very aware of when developing Pearl Dental Software is gathering good quality patient information. For this we’ve focused on developing PearlPad – our tablet-computer based subsystem that presents patients with health questionnaires and approval forms.
Once filled in on the PearlPad, the charting page in Pearl will summarise any issues and changes in health records, so that treatment can be adjusted accordingly. For major health issues that the dentist needs to be immediately aware of (eg. if the patient is taking blood thinners) Pearl has a Medical Warning flag feature which will display on the patient’s record. Recently, Pearl has also introduced a ‘Blue Badge’ flag for patients with mobility/accessibility.
We’ve done our best to introduce features that will help you keep your patients safe. So, whatever your role within your practice, make sure everyone who uses Pearl is aware of the health issue flag and the mobility flag.
Can I get some more information?
Yes you can. And in fact, we are keen to put you in touch with an expert.
Attending an exhibition recently, we found a stand belonging to The UK Sepsis Trust. This is an organisation led by volunteers from the medical professions focused on improving awareness of how to recognise sepsis, and what to do if it is suspected.
If you would like more information, or if you would like to promote awareness of sepsis to your patients, visit: www.sepsistrust.org