Post Sepsis Syndrome – Common Long Term Problems
Post Sepsis Syndrome (PSS) is the term used to describe the group of long term problems that some patients who have experienced severe sepsis can suffer during their rehabilitation period.
The effect of any critically illness and spending time being treated in a Critical Care Unit is already recognised by health care professionals as causing certain long term problems for up to two years afterwards. However, sepsis can cause additional problems which may not become apparent for several weeks, for example, recurring infections during the rehabilitation period.
It is important to remember that not everyone experiences problems after being critically ill and the length and severity of the sepsis and the fitness of the individual prior to their illness has a marked impact on how quickly they recover. The length of time spent in hospital can also affect rehabilitation.
These problems can be divided into physical or psychological and emotional.
- Lethargy / excessive tiredness
- Poor mobility / muscle weakness
- Breathlessness / chest pains
- Swollen limbs (excessive fluid in the tissues)
- Joint pains
- Insomnia (due to pain / breathlessness)
- Hair loss
- Dry / flaking skin and nails
- Taste changes
- Poor appetite
- Changes in vision
- Changes in sensation in limbs
- Repeated infections
- Reduced kidney function
Psychological and emotional:
- Anxiety / fear of sepsis recurring
- Insomnia (due to stress or anxiety)
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Poor concentration
- Short term memory loss
Long Term Recurring Infections
A very small percentage of sepsis survivors suffer recurring infections during their rehabilitation period. Occasionally, this may last for several years. These infections can present as a milder version of the original sepsis experienced by the patient or as infections starting in different areas of their body. They often need treatment with antibiotics and can be very wearing both physically and mentally.
Thankfully, most of these problems do settle on their own in time. It often takes up to 18 months before survivors start to feel like their normal or ‘near normal’ self. If anyone finds they are really struggling with either physical or psychological and emotional problems, do talk to someone about them – either Critical Care staff at a Follow Up Clinic (if your hospital provides one) or your GP. They will be able to advise you and suggest strategies or treatments which may help.
The UK Sepsis Trust also has a support team who will be happy to talk things through with you.