Navigating the Symptoms of Sepsis and Post-Sepsis Syndrome
When your body has an extreme reaction to an infection, what happens is called sepsis. It happens when you already have an infection that triggers a chain reaction throughout the body. Sepsis is a serious condition, and without timely treatment, it can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death. Some of the symptoms of sepsis include:
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion or disorientation
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- Muscle weakness
Those who enter the hospital and are treated for sepsis often find that they have significant skeletal muscle weakness for at least a month. This is not because of muscle atrophy. Rather, it is associated with impaired mitochondrial activity and persistent protein oxidative damage. Marked oxidative stress forms as a result of the inflammatory response that occurs alongside events of sepsis. When undergoing treatment for sepsis, it is essential to combat the oxidative stress and prevent damage to the mitochondria.
Post-sepsis syndrome (PSSS) is a condition that affects up to 50% of sepsis survivors. This condition typically lasts between 6 and 18 months, but it can last longer. The condition includes both physical and psychological or emotional symptoms. The physical symptoms of PSSS include the following:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the limbs
- Muscle or joint pain
- Repeat infections
- Poor appetite
- Skin rash
- Hair loss
The psychological symptoms of PSSS include:
- Panic attacks
- Decreased cognitive functioning
- Loss of self-esteem
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Memory loss
Physical Rehabilitation After Sepsis
After a patient has sepsis, they will usually begin rehabilitation in the hospital to build up strength and regain their muscle movement. The hospital staff will assist with bathing, sitting up, standing, walking, and taking the patient to the restroom. Early mobilization with the intensive care unit has shown to minimize the muscle atrophy that can come along with sepsis. In a clinical trial, early mobilization in the hospital has resulted in shorter time to ambulation and shorter duration of delirium during the hospital visit. Early mobilization during the hospital stay is also associated with improved physical function after being discharged and increased likelihood to discharge directly to the home.
There has also been a study conducted by an observation trial that examined 30,000 survivors of sepsis and found that referral to rehabilitation within 90 days of discharged was associated with a ten-year mortality compared with others who were not referred. This tells us that care after sepsis is essential, and physical therapy can help by allowing the patient to rebuild muscle strength.
When building strength after sepsis, it is essential for the patient to start by slowly increasing activities so they do not feel overly weak or tired too soon. The best post-sepsis exercises will help make the joint muscles more mobile, but will also be moderate. It is important to rebuild joint mobility because this will allow for improved efficiency of the joints and will prevent the body’s movements from being compromised.
After sepsis, the joints can be weakened, and strengthening them will allow the joints to move better and to move in the correct position. However, the body is sensitive after sepsis, so it is important to start slowly and to consult with a physical therapist or other medical professional who will be able to prescribe a routine that is ideal for the patient’s recovery.
To learn more about how physical therapy can help recovering sepsis patients, call ProFysio Physical Therapy at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online.