Life after Sepsis

Many people who survive severe sepsis recover completely and their lives return to normal. But some people, especially those who had pre-existing chronic diseases, may experience permanent organ damage.

For example, in someone who already has kidney impairment, sepsis can lead to kidney failure that requires lifelong dialysis. Patients who have the extremely severe septic shock may develop gangrene necessitating the amputation of digits (fingers or toes) or even partial or complete amputation of limbs.

Other patients who have not experienced the most catastrophic complications of sepsis may still feel their longer term health has suffered as a result of contracting sepsis.

Doctors increasingly recognise that this represents a post-sepsis syndrome, the common problems that afflict those who have recovered from sepsis have been termed the post-sepsis syndrome.

What is Post Sepsis Syndrome (PSS)?

Post-sepsis syndrome describes physical and/or long-term effects that affects up to 50% of people who survive sepsis.

Longer term effects of sepsis include:

  • Sleep disturbance including insomnia
  • Experiencing nightmares, hallucinations, flashbacks and panic attacks
  • Muscle and joint pains which can be severe and disabling
  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Impaired mental (cognitive) functioning
  • Loss of confidence and self-belief

People who have suffered more severe sepsis and especially those treated in an intensive care unit are at greatest risk of suffering post-sepsis syndrome. Older people who survive severe sepsis are also at greater risk for long-term cognitive impairment and physical problems than people of the same age who were treated for other illnesses.

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Life after sepsis: a guide for survivors, carers and bereaved families.

See: ASN Life After Sepsis (v1.0) 25092020

A new Australian resource is now available to provide information and guidance for sepsis survivors, their friends, families and carers, and bereaved families to help them navigate the often challenging post sepsis period.

This guide aims to inform early hospital discharge planning, provide survivors advice for recovery, foster connections with sepsis support groups and assist bereaved families through their grief and sadness. The value of lived experiences of sepsis in providing this support, cannot be underestimated.

Thank you to the ASN Consumer Advisory and Support Group and Ms Fiona Gray (Chair) for their guidance and contribution to the development of this resource.

This guide is a living document and as such will evolve over time to encompass advances in post sepsis recovery and support.

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For further information visit our resources page.